UNISON student nurses lead march on Trafalgar square

Nursing students from across the country are converging on London today (Wednesday February 20), to lead a march organised by the National Union of Students demanding “Grants Not Fees,” and calling for an end to nursing bursaries. Over 10,000 students and supporters are expected to join the march across London, which heads off from outside the University of London Union (ULU), Malet Street at 12.00pm. The marchers will make their way to a rally at Trafalgar Square to be addressed by speakers including Ken Livingstone.

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said :

“We hope this demonstration will act as a wake up call to this Government, that students are the future of the country and we need to invest in that future. Fees leave students with long-term financial burdens and deter many talented young people from going to university.

“It is no good the Government claiming that students will earn extra over their life time, because when a student nurse ends their training, not only are they in debt, they will still only be earning £15,000 a year.”

“It is a disgrace that student nurses are expected to survive on bursaries which give them just £2.70 an hour, less than minimum wage for a full week on the wards. In addition they have no employment protection such as maternity pay, sickness benefit or industrial injuries benefits. The NHS needs to be able to attract young people into nursing, yet it is tragic that every year more than a third drop out of their courses.

“We are calling on the Government to pay nurses a decent living wage and end the financial hardship which leads to many student nurses having to take on two and sometimes three extra jobs, just to make ends meet.

Rachel Voller, UNISON Nursing Students President, said:

“Our action today is in protest at the worsening situation faced by student nurses – the lack of affordable accommodation, and cuts to travel allowances. Nursing students now face the double problem of surviving on a bursary and long hours on the wards. £2.70 an hour is not acceptable in this day and age. We want dignity and respect”