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Royal London Hospital striker

Royal London Hospital striker. Photo: Jim Aindow

Defiant catering workers on strike rallied on Thursday against privatisation of the NHS and demand their jobs are brought in house, reports Yonas Makoni

Serco catering staff at the Royal London Hospital followed up on the past few days’ strike action with a rally on Thursday afternoon. The event was lively and energetic, with blaring horns, chants and speeches filling the air.

The workers began their strike on Monday in a dispute over management bullying and ‘unworkable’ roster changes. Management, the workers claim, has imposed a new roster with shifts split irregularly over a 15-week period. According to the strikers, this means often working more than seven days in a row, with no concern for family or child care commitments. In addition, the workers report bullying by management, specifically in regard to shift allocation and sickness absence.

The workers, however, are also making a broader political point about the hollowing out of the health service. The workers repeatedly chanted “Serco out” and speeches were held, demanding an end to the ongoing privatisation of the NHS and the bringing of outsourced services back in-house. This will strike a chord with the health workers at the hospital, several of whom came to the rally in support. In the words of the branch rep:

“We hear a lot from the politicians about choice, don’t we? Well, Barts Trust made the choice five years ago that they would deliver up hundreds of ancillary workers to profiteering organisations and that we would simply relent and give into this”

“They ask us to look the other way when they make £37bn worth of profits off the failure of track-and-trace, they ask us to look the other way when some of their senior executives pick up £7.2 million. We will not look the other way, it is off our backs as privatised workers that these profits are made.”

The workers will be out on the picket line again on Friday 25 June from 6am and discussions about further strike action are currently ongoing. From the Thurrock and Bexley refuse workers to the Caledonian Sleeper staff, workers’ resistance to unscrupulous contractors is on the rise. We now need to bring all these struggles together in a concerted movement against privatisation.

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