The starting point is that all of the crises we face, from the global pandemic to systemic racism, crippling austerity to the climate emergency, are fundamentally connected.
Over the last few years, the climate justice movement in the Global North has begun to recognise these linkages. Realising what activists in the Global South have been pointing to for decades. Likewise at UKYCC, we have made our own commitment to the principles of systemic change, the need to amplify marginalised voices and support campaigns that challenge the deep rooted inequalities that this system we live in perpetuates.
One such campaign that has been building traction in the US, spearheaded by the Sunrise Movement and promoted by Justice Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is the call for a Green New Deal - a huge investment package that marries social and climate justice, securing well-paid, unionised jobs for all in a decarbonised and just economy.
And now it’s in the UK too. The Build Back Better campaign draws our attention to simple truths - the coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on the deep inequalities at the heart of our society; we cannot go back to where we were; and we must use this opportunity to build a fairer, greener and more just future for all.
During the pandemic, the NHS has highlighted all of these issues. The outpouring of support for NHS workers in the form of claps, banners and sponsored laps round the garden have been a microcosm of the more caring society we need. But at the same time it has drawn attention to the chronic underfunding of this vital service, the maltreatment and disregard for those who keep it going, and the deeper inequalities that show up in its death figures. Research showing that people of colour are 2 to 3 times more likely to die from coronavirus is reflected in the reported deaths from healthcare workers - while only 20% of Nurses are from a BME background, over 71% of Nurses who have died are BME. These glaring findings cannot be ignored.
Sadly, the irony of a Government praising our vital NHS staff after taking the rug out from under their feet for the last ten years does not yet seem to have permeated the public conscience. The lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has become a proxy for the impacts of a decade of cuts and the gradual erosion of the resources a functioning public health service needs to operate. Unsurprisingly, the impact of these cuts and the crisis NHS workers now face has fallen predominantly on nurses of colour, migrant nurses, women, and junior staff.
This is why today, on International Nurses Day, Build Back Better is joining forces with those in the nursing community to call for a better deal for nurses and the NHS. Their demands are:
1. A safe workplace, with life-saving PPE and adequate staffing to provide the care we want to give.
2. Support for aspiring nurses to train, with a living bursary and free tuition.
3. A fair wage, that reverses the cuts to real wages we have faced.
4. Concrete steps to end the racism and xenophobia that we knew existed before the pandemic - our lives depend on it.
5. A full public enquiry into the Government’s handling of COVID19.
We stand with nurses in these calls. We see that a precarious economy built on profits before people has created the same conditions that allow our NHS to crumble, our climate to collapse, and the forces of racism, xenophobia, sexism and inequality to flourish.
The response to the pandemic cannot prioritise one cause over another. We must stand together in calling for a rethink, a new model - to build back better. That means standing in solidarity with those on the frontlines, amplifying their calls, and perhaps most importantly, believing that another world is possible.
Building back better starts with supporting those who have given so much during this time. To care for our carers, to call for a new deal for public services that doesn’t just support our emergency response to coronavirus, but builds the foundations for a better future.
Please join us in amplifying these shared demands and joining the movement.