Defence of the NHS and resistance to outsourcing continue to fuel the fledgling industrial fightback, reports Ellen Graubart
Cleaners, porters and security staff (members of Unite the Union) who work at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, but are employed by the giant global company Serco, have had to resort for a third time to industrial action against the company’s refusal to listen to their demands for a modest pay rise of 30p an hour and decent working conditions. Serco made profits of over £80m last year, yet many of their workers have to take on extra jobs to survive.
Following the previous seven day strike they returned to a dirty hospital and total lack of support from the Serco management, who have attempted to undermine the enormous public and hospital staff support by spreading malicious propaganda concerning non existent ‘incidents’ for which they blamed the workers.
Obviously Serco is rattled, and so they should be: a thousand people marched along with John McDonnell to Parliament Square on Saturday in support of low-paid health workers in the East London Barts NHS Trust; two of their reps have been interviewed by Channel 4 News, and their industrial action and very reasonable demands have had wide press and social media coverage.
Determined that Serco will eventually have to listen to them, they began a two week strike early this morning, in a spirit of cheerful defiance. They have promised yet more strikes in August and September if their demands aren’t met.
(PS - I was approached by a patient (he had come out in his bathrobe to buy a newspaper) who having seen Serco in operation was fuming with anger over the effect that the company’s policy of profit first was having on the hospital and staff. His last words before he returned to his hospital ward were “I hate Serco!”)
Ellen Graubart was born in India of American parents and came to London from Virginia as a teenager to study art. She lives and works as an artist in Hackney. She is a member of Counterfire, Stop the War and Hackney Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
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- Justice for workers at St Bart's trust: Unite strike against SERCO
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