cleaners strike Striking workers at the Royal London Hospital. Photo: Ellen Graubart

On their second strike day, cleaners in East London remain confident they can win

Workers at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, East London, continued their strike today after being refused a 30 pence an hour payrise last month by their employer Serco.

Members of Unite the Union began industrial action last week after Serco bosses refused their demands of a 3 per-cent pay increase – offering a rise of 1 percent instead.

The atmosphere outside of the Royal hospital was very positive, as strikers lined up outside the entrance playing music, handing out leaflets and chanting down megaphones. It is quite clear they think they can win – they are causing serious disruption to the services in the hospital. But they were also frustrated and angry that the agency staff who were replacing them were untrained.

One of the workers explained that:

‘[Serco] have made over £70 million pounds profit that they have now. We want 3% out of that money, and they are not giving it to us. So that is the reason we are having this strike.’

The attitude amongst the rest of the staff at the hospital has been very supportive, which has helped to boost the confidence of the strikers. As one of them said, ‘The support has been great because all of the Doctors and nurses are backing us.’

Those on strike include cleaners, porters and security guards, and are set to go be on strike until Monday 17 July – which is to be followed by a 14 day strike starting on 25 July. This is the first time in decades that workers in the health service have taken such sustained strike action. It is testimony both to the depth of the crisis in the NHS and a growing mood of confidence and combativity amongst some sections of workers at the moment.

William, one of the strike organisers told me:

‘If we are not working, then the infection rate is going to go up and it’s going to affect most of the patients. Nobody wants it that way – but as human beings and as workers – we need to stand our ground and fight for this.’

In total, more than 700 cleaners, security guards, porters and catering staff are involved in the strike, which is happening across the Barts Health NHS trust in East London.

The strikers have called a protest at 12 midday on Saturday 15 July at the Royal London Hopsital in Whitechapel. They are asking other trade unions and work places to bring banners and delegations.

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