Why am I writing this post? Whilst this post calls out some NHS workers for questionable behavior, I’m doing it because I actually care about NHS workers. For the last 8 years, the general political positions of NHS workers have failed hard. I believe it’s partly because they’re tone-deaf about the political situation. If I was against NHS workers and wanted them to get raw deal after raw deal I’d just sit back when they did questionable political moves and let them hang themselves.
Sadly, the NHS political hive mind has become so reactionary, mob-like, and tone-deaf about the bigger context, it rarely considers the bigger picture and shoots itself in the foot again and again.
The coronavirus lockdown has been a real eye-opener on how people I know view the world, cope with situations, process information, and point fingers. Previously I covered how some (not all) nurses on my social media feeds were using the crisis to devalue other careers [link]. Sadly, this dialog has only gotten worse. I maintain, it’s only a small number of people, however, it’s still problematic. Before we dive into this, let’s cover the context.
During the lockdown, the economic downturn has been really pronounced. Thousands of people have lost their jobs, others are furloughed, Lloyds reported a 95% drop in profits. Last year the government borrowed £48.7billion. It’s now trying to borrow £225 billion. If you look at the fringes of society you see the instability already hitting. Corner shop owners are seeing an increase in robbery, and shoplifters threatening to spit in the shop owners’ face. They also report regulars coming in to try and exchange their phones for food. Oil reached a negative price for the first time ever where they were paying people to take oil off their hands, and British households on average have a disposable income drop of £515 in a month. Considering this, it’s not a shock that this could be the worst economic slump in 300 years.
Right now, if you’re not getting a pay cut, you’re in a good position. However, this didn’t stop biomedical scientists starting an online petition to the government for a pay rise:
I commented below that context, and that this was poor timing. I got the generic knee-jerk response that they have had a pay freeze for so long they deserve this. I had some nursing data at hand because this is a weird fallacy that gets repeated again and again because people think it makes them look good.
What I did was adjust for inflation. There was deflation during the recession when the 3-year pay freeze was happening. As you can see, a pay freeze is a blessing in a recession. The purchasing power that the nurse had rocketed during the recession when we were having that “terrible” pay freeze. I was working as a nurse from 2010 for 6 years. I did very well. Finished off with no student debt. My fellow nurses were going on holidays multiple times a year, and not stressing about finances. I didn’t go on holiday for roughly a 10-year stretch. I paid for a physics degree outright with the money I made as a nurse. After the three-year pay freeze, pay increases happened as usual:
Now, whether you think it’s enough is up to you, but the pay freeze argument for government workers is not the hardship it initially sounds. The biomedical scientists shot back throwing any stone they could. Firstly it’s bad I used nursing data. When I pointed out that it was about the rate of change and that a pay freeze is, in fact, a blessing in a recession and I just had nursing data at hand to illustrate the point, the missing stone didn’t detur them. Next was the fact that I had different scales in the Y-Axis. I replied that I left them in and that considering that they were professors I didn’t think this would mislead them. The next stone was that I wasn’t a trained economist. I replied that they also were not trained, economists. Because I have had many people frantically grab and blindly throw stones in these debates before, I also chucked in the fact that even when you control for education, government workers earn more than private workers and have better pensions. There are multiple other sources that cover this and this is usually a finisher. The person generally doesn’t respond, and then posts the same garbage the next day, as if the conversation never happened.
However, these guys went one step further. Now, remember that these guys are scientists. One that was throwing the majority of the stones was a professor. He said that I needed to find data on biomedical scientists specifically. I reminded him that he’s flipping the scientific method on its head. He’s projecting a hypothesis that right now is a good time for a pay rise. He has to provide the evidence. He repeated his statement with an obnoxious “thanks” at the end. I played his game. I told him that I’ve written many lines of code for the NHS. The NHS should pay me a couple of million for it and it’s up to him to find the evidence that this isn’t the case. I was 100% respectful, but considering that none of his stones hit, he blocked me to continue his shakedown without a pesky truth-teller distributing facts.
This isn’t just an isolated incident. I’m now seeing some nurses outraged that they are not getting a pay rise this year. Some are even protesting. Now, you may think, on the whole, NHS workers do deserve a pay rise. That’s fine, I’m not here to debate that. However, it’s not the time to complain that the living room needs a fresh lick of paint whilst the upstairs is on fire.
It’s not a point to paint these people in a bad light, it’s about how this can happen to anyone. It’s a testament to how if you feed yourself with the same narratives, ignore dissenting opinion and personally chalk the facts they say down to them being a bad person, you can dig yourself into a very dark rabbit hole. You see this with founders, they start off with noble goals. They may compromise, and by the end of it, they’re the people they set out to compete against. You see this with pretty much every political movement at the moment. They start out by standing up for the little guy. They then gain traction, power, and money. However, these come with ties. In house, struggles happen, and their campaigns become selective and politically charged. Their original goal is no longer a mission, but a weapon to use when it’s convenient. If the NHS political narratives want to gain traction with the public, they have to consider timing and context.
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I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for biomedical data. The rate change is likely to be the same as for any NHS worker, including nurses, and so your point would stand, but economics is such a complex multivariable space that it would be prudent to check there isn’t some bizarre interaction biomedical scientists are experiencing that is somehow absent in nursing.