Hundreds of NHS Scotland staff fell silent to remember colleagues lost during the coronavirus pandemic at a protest over pay in Glasgow city centre.
The demonstration was just one of dozens planned across the country in response to a UK Government pay rise announcement which campaigners say excludes “a massive number of healthcare workers”.
Many of those at the demonstration in Glasgow Green held banners and signs along with two-metre lengths of blue ribbon to emphasise social distancing, with action also taking place in Edinburgh on Saturday morning.
Signs read “Enough empty praise, geez a fair raise”, “Covid hero pay rise zero”, and “Who saved you Boris?”.
Melanie Gale, a senior charge nurse who ran a Covid-positive ward with an “under-staffed hard-working team”, helped organise the event.
She told the PA news agency: “It was scary times not knowing what was happening – we were in the middle of a pandemic and our NHS workers stood on that front line and gave their all.
“I saw on Facebook we needed to organise for Glasgow and I knew how big this was going to be.
“They’re an amazing bunch of people that have all got together, all the organisers, to make today happen in two weeks.
“We’re here today to say we have had enough, we deserve our equal pay. It’s 10 years of not being given a proper pay increase for the jobs we do.
“I’d like to thank the public, our speakers and everybody else who has come out today. There are 33 cities today protesting about this and I’m just so amazed.”
Sarah Pirie – a nurse treating Covid-19 patients at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital – read a poem out shortly before the two-minute silence at 12pm.
Before the poem, Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon also showed her support at the protest having called for the Scottish Government to begin pay talks with workers.
She told the crowd: “People call you heroes but you don’t have superpowers, you should be getting paid a fair pay for the job that you do, the job that you’re trained to do, your expertise and your skills – not just a pat in the back or a clap on the doorstep every week.
“We need to make sure that your work continues to be recognised and properly remunerated so you have our full support. Warm words don’t pay the bills – we need to get these pay talks under way.
“We know in the months ahead we’re going to have a very difficult winter on our hands. Aside from Covid pressures there’s all the other pressures that are on the NHS.
“It’s very poignant to be here to stand amongst you our healthcare workers because you have lost some of your own in this battle.”
Stuart McKenzie, a mental health nurse from the west of Scotland, also spoke to the crowd with an impassioned speech.
He told PA he was “blown away” by the response “having struggled with coming because you know we need to keep people safe”.
Mr McKenzie said: “My experiences have been very much from managing and coordinating services and seeing the challenges and struggles that were in place.
“It’s imperative that there’s a voice around this and as many voices are heard as possible, this doesn’t just affect one or two groups in the NHS, this affects everybody.
“The importance of the matter is we have to make a stand… it can’t be one union, it has to be them all.
“We need to have a collective and combined voice.”