Whipps Cross Hospital picket line Whipps Cross Hospital picket line. Photo: Sian Barrett

Outsourced hospital workers in Barts Trust who went on strike and were prepared to strike again have won their dispute, reports Cici Washburn

1,800 Barts Trust ancillary workers at Royal London, Whipps Cross and St Barts Hospital who have been fighting for fair pay and to be brought in house have just secured a massive victory. Following a two week strike at the start of February and with another two week strike planned, on 2 March the Trust confirmed that when the Serco contract ends in April 2023, the cleaners, porters, security guards and domestic staff will be brought in house as NHS staff.

This is a huge victory and will strengthen the fights of other outsourced workers in similar disputes against outsourcing including GOSH security guards, G4S Croydon Hospital workers in health and also in other industries, such as the RMT rail cleaners employed by Churchill.

As one worker said during the strike action “We’re striking because we want to go in-house. We’re working in the NHS but we are not getting the benefits [of NHS employment]… We’re outsourced which means we get less holidays, less sick pay and less of all other benefits.”

Unite says the strike action has also secured a cash lump sum for the workers on top of the annual pay increase. As well as fighting to be brought in house the workers were rejecting a 3% pay offer. It is reported that the deal will see the workers receive a 15% pay rise when they switch contracts along with 4% backdated pay rise for 2022. In the midst of a cost of living crisis, with bills set to increase by more than double next month, this is a boost for all workers to fight for above-inflation pay rises. 

Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed said:

“It was clear from Unite’s dispute with Serco that the inequality and pay disparity that our members faced needed to be addressed. The Trust’s board has now confirmed that the mainly Black, Asian and ethnic minority staff will be brought in-house and transferred on to Agenda for Change terms and conditions from day one.

“The agreement negotiated between Unite and Barts is a significant step forward. The workers have tirelessly campaigned and their solidarity has paid off. Barts has set an example which other NHS trusts should follow.”

The Barts workers have shown that collective action can win. They were incredibly determined in their fight, with vibrant and energetic picket lines. They will have shown that these NHS trusts don’t need to outsource and can easily afford to bring workers in house. They will have given confidence to outsourced workers to fight back and strength to ongoing and future disputes.

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