Those Thursday night claps may still be ringing in many of our ears, but it seems the echoes have long since died out in the corridors of power.
The full-throated support for health staff has given way to a wall of silence when it comes to support that would actually help staff.
We need to raise our voices to break that silence. We need to raise our voices to remind the government of the vital contribution public sector workers have made both during the crisis and before it.
UNISON is working hard to raise those voices — we want to make them too loud to ignore.
Perhaps what we’re arguing for is spelled clearly out in the following: “These past months have underlined what we always knew – that our public-sector workers make a vital contribution to our country and that we can rely on them when we need them.”
That was Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, last month announcing welcome pay rises of 2-31.1% for around 900,000 public servants, including doctors and dentists, teachers and senior civil servants.
In the same breath, he and his friends in Whitehall refused any notion of bringing pay talks forward for the hundreds of thousands of other workers in the NHS who are so vital to keeping us healthy — the nurses, porters, medical secretaries, administrators, healthcare assistants and so many more.
More than ever, we need to mobilise to smash this Tory hypocrisy.
We can’t allow the Conservative government’s rush back to ‘normal’ to be the same normal as it was before — at best an underfunding born of ignorance for what our public services provide, at worst an ideological assault on our public services to destroy the concepts of mutual reliance and solidarity on which they’re built.
Because — however little Sunak may actually mean the words crafted by his policy wonks — he’s right. Public-sector workers’ contribution to this country is vital. And we have always known it.
It shouldn’t have taken a global pandemic to work out which workers really are key, but we can’t now allow Sunak, Johnson or the rest of them to turn back after travelling so far down the road to Damascus.
It’ll take a monumental effort from all of us to change things. We’ll need to be active in our workplaces and in our communities. Talk to your colleagues, your friends, your neighbours. Ask them to show their support for health workers to get the reward they deserve after a decade of austerity.
What’s at stake isn’t just the claim and counter-claim of collective bargaining. It’s a whole vision of the society we want as we emerge from this crisis.
Main pic: No 10/Creative Commons