Outsourced London hospital workers fight for better pay
Jakub Kotwica, East London Socialist Party
Catering workers have walked out for five days at the Royal London Hospital, part of Barts NHS Trust in east London. The strike by members of Unite the Union is taking place across all shifts from 21-25 June. Each day of the strike there are lively picket lines near the front entrance of the hospital. And a rally was organised for Thursday 24 June at 12pm to support the striking workers, who are fighting to level their wages to the same as directly employed NHS workers doing the same job.
Socialist Party members, including the workers' union branch secretary Len Hockey, have visited the picket lines every day.
Throughout the pandemic, these essential workers worked continuously helping the sickest and most vulnerable. Many of them contracted Covid which put in danger, not only themselves, but also their families and loved ones. Some of them paid for their dedication with their lives.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic seems to slowly be getting more under control, and despite last year's overwhelming praise for the commitment and value of essential workers, it is apparent that the conditions of their employment is only getting worse. Recently Serco, the private company contracted by Barts to provide catering services, forced on their employees rigid 15-week roster changes that scattered shifts and included split rest days.
As a result, workers have found it impossible to arrange childcare, and some have been prevented from completing college courses. This is taking place on top of the already aggressive use of 'absence triggers' and the abuse of power in allocation of shifts and holiday. All of which workers were enduring throughout the pandemic.
Strikers are asking Barts NHS Trust to support their key workers. On the picket lines they are handing out flyers, asking the community to write directly to senior managers of the trust, and encouraging everybody to take part in the NHS Barts board meeting that takes place on 7 July at 11am.
It is not the first time that outsourced Barts Serco workers have had to go on strike. In September 2017, after 24 days of strike action across four London hospitals, the ancillary workers managed to bring Serco to the negotiating table. Like now, the pickets were alive with chanting, singing, dancing, speeches, and took part in joint action with other strikes in London.
The same determination to fight can see the catering workers win this dispute too.
- See 'Deal concludes Barts health strike - "We have raised our heads high"' for more on the previous dispute
In The Socialist 23 June 2021:
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