GMB health workers and supporters protest against outsourcing | Photo: Peter Bird GMB health workers and supporters protest against outsourcing | Photo: Peter Bird

Peter Bird reports on widespread public support for better working conditions and against creeping privatisation

Despite near freezing temperatures over 100 people congregated outside Croydon University Hospital, south London, on Saturday and marched to Croydon town centre to call for the end to the contracting out of hospital services. The event was convened by the GMB union on behalf of, and involving, cleaning and portering staff mainly employed by the outsourcing giant G4S.

Helen O’Connor, GMB Regional Organiser said:

“Our members are marching on Croydon because they are sick and tired of being treated as second-class workers by the NHS contractors who operate on a shoestring, as without their hard work, Croydon University Hospital wouldn’t be able to function. All our members, many of them migrants, want is to enjoy proper sick pay and other benefits like their NHS colleagues, as they know improving pay and conditions will go some way towards enhancing the services for patients too. Outsourced workers cannot rely on private companies to provide even the basics like legible payslips or pay their workers on time for hours worked. That’s why GMB members are demanding that the trust take them back in house now and give them the pay and conditions they need and deserve before the contract is sold off to the lowest bidder.”

These views were echoed during the rally by several speakers, including people from the local Labour Party, and by London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, on whose behalf a message of support was read.

Special encouragement was felt when Louise Irving from Keep Our NHS Public spoke about the SOS NHS campaign, supported by over 50 affiliates including trade unions and groups representing patients, campaigning in support of a properly funded public service, fair pay and conditions, and an end to privatisation.

Likewise Marian Carty from UCU reported that, three years ago, the UCU and Unison were successful in a campaign at Goldsmiths College to bring cleaning and security services back in house, which was done at neutral cost to the employer. She spoke of the exploitative nature of the large outsourcing companies such as G4S, ISS, and Mitie and of a mounting tidal wave of resistance to such practices.

Support and solidarity was also expressed by Paula Peters on behalf Unite Community and Disabled People Against Cuts, and by several other speakers.

Saturdays march attracted a lot of attention and sympathy among the public in Croydon and it is clear that there is growing support for proper pay and working conditions in the NHS.

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