Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
Thank you for your email about the Thunderclap for Carers.
Like you and so many other people in our constituency, I think it is important that we show our appreciation for the frontline workers who have been fighting hard against COVID-19 throughout the pandemic.
Our carers, NHS staff and other key workers have continued to go out to work, risking their health every single day, whilst so many of us have been able to stay safe at home. I agree with you that clapping for our carers, while a nice gesture, is by no means enough.
My Labour colleague, Jonathan Ashworth, put it so eloquently when he said that our NHS staff are “undervalued, overworked and underpaid”. I think that this is true of all our key workers, many of whom are on minimum wage and work inhumane zero-hours contracts.
Labour has always been the party of working people.
In our 2019 manifesto, we committed to restoring public sector pay to at least pre-financial crisis levels, starting with an increase of 5%. We also committed to bringing in a Real Living Wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers, alongside a ban on zero-hours contracts for workers who put in regular hours for more than 12 weeks.
At the end of last year, the Chancellor announced that some public sector workers – including teachers, police officers, soldiers and civil servants – are going to be subjected to a pay freeze. This decision will affect millions. I feel very strongly that it is wrong, and I doubt that it has made these essential public sector workers feel appreciated by the government.
As you point out, it is also wrong that nearly two-thirds of the EU nationals currently working for our healthcare system would not be allowed into the country under the government’s new points-based immigration system. I am thankful for all our healthcare workers, regardless of where they come from. In 2019, non-British nationals make up 12% of our country’s healthcare workforce. In London, that figure is 23% – the highest in the country. Immigrations contribute so much to our society.
During the past decade of Conservative government, I have consistently opposed their attempts to cut and privatise the NHS. As you may know, I led from the frontbench the opposition to the hated Health and Social Care Act, I successfully fought to save the Whittington, and I am currently trying to ensure that the NHS is not on the table during our trade negotiations with our countries as Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade.
You can therefore be assured that I will continue to fight for fair pay, proper support and real recognition for our frontline workers.
Thank you again for contacting me as part of the Thunderclap for Carers initiative. I hope that you and your family are keeping safe and well. If you have any further points you would like to raise about this issue, or indeed any other, please do not hesitate to get back in touch.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury
Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade