Today (Saturday 28 May) marks World Hunger Day, a day launched more than a decade ago to focus attention and galvanise action on the many millions of people across the globe without enough to eat.
Its intention, understandably enough, is to deliver life-saving initiatives in mainly third-world countries, where famines caused by draughts and extreme weather events, or by national or international politicking or war, lead to mass starvation.
This is of course entirely laudable – help should always be extended to those who need it by anyone who has the ability to do so.
But what I find shocking/astonishing/enraging is the sheer volume of people going hungry here too, in the fifth richest economy on the planet.
Here in our city, a third of children in the Brighton Kemptown constituency, and more than a quarter in both Brighton Pavilion and Hove, were living in poverty from figures collated just before covid hit.
And the numbers have climbed steeply since then, based on what we can gather from figures we have.
Private rents have continued to rise out of all proportion to income levels locally. And with food and fuel bills rocketing by percentages not seen for 40 years and taxes on the low paid higher than for decades too, the cost-of-living crisis is all too real for many thousands of people here.
In the light of this then, I fully support both the demonstration held outside Mill View Hospital, in Hove, last week by NHS staff, and the current strike for better pay and conditions by workers in my own ward at the St James Tavern.
The protest in Hove was against the government’s imposition of another swingeing real terms pay cut (3 per cent rise, with inflation currently 9 per cent and expected to increase further over the coming months) on NHS staff including nursing, ancillary and admin staff, occupational therapists, psychologists and others.
With hospitals across the country setting up internal foodbanks for their own staff – and no, I can’t quite believe I’m typing that in our rich country in 2022 – I’m sure we all think it’s time they were paid more fairly.
And actually, the same goes for bar staff, surely? They’re a casualised, zero-hours workforce, by and large, with poor pay, few rights, and often subject to bad treatment.
The St James staff are pushing back, demanding not just better conditions but union recognition too – good luck and solidarity to them.
Councillor Amanda Evans is the deputy leader of the Labour opposition on Brighton and Hove City Council.
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