Strangers raise over £17,000 to pay health worker's Covid fine after NHS pay protest in Manchester

Healthcare worker Karen Reissmann organised a protest to demonstration against proposed 1% pay rise in Manchester city centre. Credit: MEN

A healthcare worker who was fined £10,000 for organising a protest over nurses' pay says she is 'overwhelmed' after strangers raised thousands of pounds to help her.

And now, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has asked Greater Manchester Police to review the £10,000 fine.

Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey has stood by the decision, but the fixed penalty notice is currently undergoing an “additional review process” following a request from Andy Burnham.

Mental health worker Karen Reissmann was one of the organisers of an event in response to the Government's offer of a 1 per cent pay rise for NHS staff. The Unison rep says she ensured all participants wore masks and cones were marked out on the floor to help maintain social distancing.

But Greater Manchester Police halted the rally shortly after midday, handing out the fixed penalty fine to Karen.

Police shut down protest in St Peter's Square, Manchester Credit: MEN

Within hours of the fine a gofundme page was set up by a member of the public to help pay the fine - with 700 people donating more than £13,800 to the cause.

In a statement on the website, Karen thanked everyone for giving to the fund.

She added: "I continue to fight for that right to protest.

"It's so nice to do it without the personal threat hanging over me. You have all made that possible. I am looking at the best next step."

The small, peaceful rally was halted by over a dozen officers from Greater Manchester Police shortly after midday. Credit: MEN

Speaking before she was given the fine, Karen described the actions of the police as "political."

In a statement, Greater Manchester Police said: 'A crowd of around 40 people had gathered in contravention of current lockdown legislation, in particular legislation concerning protests."They went on to say that most people had dispersed.

Police added: "The organiser of the protest, a 61 year old woman has been issued a £10,000 Fixed Penalty Notice.

"A 65-year-old woman was arrested for failing to cooperate but was later dearrested and issued with a £200 fixed penalty fine."Superintendent Caroline Hemingway said: "With the positive step of schools reopening, it is vital that people continue to follow Government legislation on social distancing and avoid gathering illegally in large numbers.

"We sought to engage with and peaceably disperse those attending this afternoon's protest, explaining that the gathering was in contravention of Government lockdown rules."Unfortunately officers were met with a degree of non-compliance and it was therefore necessary to enforce issue FPNs."

It is thought Karen will challenge the fine - and, if successful, any money raised will be given to a mental health charity.

Health unions have criticised the Government's proposed pay rise, calling it 'insulting'.On Friday Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the proposed increase was being put forward on the basis of “affordability”.Speaking at the Downing Street press conference, he praised the “incredible” work of NHS staff but said the coronavirus pandemic had brought “financial consequences” for the country.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock at a Downing Street press conference on Friday. Credit: PA

He added: “We’ve proposed what we think is affordable to make sure that in the NHS people do get a pay rise and I think it is fair to take into account all the considerations, the incredible hard work of those in the NHS, which means they are not part of the overall public sector pay freeze and also what’s affordable as a nation.”