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Croydon Hospital GMB protest

Croydon Hospital GMB protest. Photo: Peter Bird

Croydon hospital workers employed by G4S rallied with community and trade union activists to demand a living wage and occupational sick pay, reports Peter Bird

On Monday lunch time, outside Croydon University Hospital, a crowd of hospital porters and domestic workers and their supporters turned out in large numbers to demand the real London Living wage and an occupational sick-pay scheme.

GMB organiser Helen O’Connor described the situation giving rise to these demands, and reported that the workers were growing in confidence. Their mood, she said, was positive and infectious, and there was growing trade union organising and solidarity.

What Helen described was very apparent as was the high level of support from Keep Our NHS Public, Save Lewisham Hospital, DPAC, the Labour Party, Croydon Trades Council, and many hospital patients and supporters, all of whom were represented among those present.

Steve Reed, the Member of Parliament for Croydon North, and shadow justice secretary spoke of the past decade’s lack of pay growth and the current rate of price inflation. He condemned a situation where people had to choose between not being unable to eat and heat their homes and going to work unwell. He said the staff members at Croydon Hospital, who are employed by the contractors G4S, were being forced to choose the former because they were dedicated to keeping the rest of us safe from Covid.

Val Shawcross, mayoral candidate and a member of the GMB union for thirty years, echoed those views and condemned the anti-union sentiments of the employers.

Another speaker also involved, as a UCU member, in the dispute at Goldsmiths University compared the dispute with their own and said that it is auxiliary workers that enable establishments to function. She slated the employer G4S, and multinationals like Serco, as tyrants and called for the functions to be taken back in-house by the NHS.

Paula Peters from Disabled People Against The Cuts and Bromley and Unite Community Branch made the observation that Croydon Hospital, like many institutions, was dependent on a multinational, multi-cultural work force and condemned the pernicious Nationality and Borders Bill.

Two local ward councillors also spoke in support of the protesters as did speakers from KONP and the Lewisham Hospital campaign; the session ended with repeated chanting of “G4S pay us now!”

Helen O’Connor had, at the start of the protest, commented that there was standing room only at the last union meeting. She ended by announcing another union meeting this Friday which, I would predict, will be at least as crowded. It is a fine example of growing trade unionism and is, as Helen has said, a movement that will preserve and protect standards in the hospital as well as advancing their own rights.

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