Unite NHS strike rally, Royal London Hospital Unite NHS strike rally, Royal London Hospital. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Carole Vincent reports on the strikes and demonstrations by NHS workers at several London Trusts fighting to save the health service

‘Please back us: save jobs and our NHS’. That was the plea on Wednesday and Thursday last week, as NHS staff from four London Trusts staged a two-day strike and demonstrated outside the Royal London Hospital and Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital. They are striking after rejecting the government’s well-below-inflation pay deal and chronic staff shortages which they say are at dangerous levels.

Guys and St Thomas’ picket line. Photo: Cici Washburn

In addition to this, staff at Barts Trust are striking to demand the deal they agreed on following a hard-fought battle last year is upheld. Almost a thousand cleaners, porters, security guards and some catering staff were finally bought in-house, having worked for private racketeers, Serco, for years.

The Barts battle saw a massive victory for Unite members and they secured a lump sum of £1,655 and pay parity with staff already directly employed by the NHS on the same points and grades. Serco was shown the door and the workers were brought in-house again.

However, the workers have not been paid the lump sum, and most have been put on the lowest pay points in their grade, despite working for decades in some cases. Infuriated workers have again been forced to take industrial action because the reneging of their deal is an insult compounded by the government’s appalling pay deal.

Apsana Begum MP addresses the strike rally at Royal London Hospital. Photo: Carole Vincent

This is more than a dispute with individual NHS Trusts – it is part of a fight to save the NHS from full privatisation. A Unite leaflet given out to members of the public and patients explained,

“One in two workers at Barts have considered leaving the jobs they are dedicated to and that includes nurses and other professionals. This is a fight to secure jobs and decent conditions, and to ensure patient safety. 

“The media would have us believe that any Industrial action by NHS workers increases risks to patients and lengthens waiting lists. This is simply not the case. Workers across the NHS are fighting for patients and patient safety, they are professionals who care deeply, but they are struggling with lower pay, higher workloads, low morale, staff shortages amounting to 133,000 vacancies across the NHS and retention of staff at its most critical, with workers leaving en masse! 

“We have seen twelve years of Tory pay cuts causing this shocking crisis.”

Photo: Cici Washburn

More industrial action in the NHS is on its way with Junior Doctors, Consultants and Radiographers ramping up their action. 

Unite members in London Hospitals have been brave to take this action now with a cost of living crisis, but they fear they are not being paid NHS rates or overtime rates but instead they are paid inferior “bank” rates. Moreover, they don’t believe it is new money but will be coming from current NHS budgets therefore draining more out of an NHS in crisis. 

The result is more money lost and more workers suffering. We must all support workers across the NHS in their actions to save our NHS and to get the government to fully fund it now!

Whipps Cross picket line. Photo: Carole Vincent

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