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GOSH strike rally

GOSH strike rally. Photo: Gary Griffiths

Great Ormond Street Hospital security guards began six weeks of strike action with an energetic and defiant rally, reports Gary Griffiths

Because of the failure of management to enter negotiations, Security Guards at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, members of United Voices of the World (UVW), walked out on Thursday, 2 February 2022, for six weeks continuously in their ongoing fight for equality with other National Health Service (NHS) workers. The six-week strike is set to be one of the longest security guard walkouts in NHS history. But the guards say they have had no option, after months-long failed attempts to talk to their outsourced employer Carlisle Support Services (“Carlisle”), and GOSH.

The predominantly Black, brown and migrant guards were outsourced to work for the third-party company, Carlisle, on poorer terms and conditions than their largely white NHS colleagues who are employed in-house. Carlisle is owned by billionaire and Conservative Party donor Lord Ashcroft and the company generated revenues of £65m and profit of £6m in 2019.

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Photo: Shabbir Lakha

The strike was launched outside GOSH with incredible support and solidarity for the 33 strikers from a cross section of workers and the public.

Passionate and heart-rending speeches were heard from individual strikers, who highlighted the injustices and unfairness they have been enduring. Support came from other unions, including the RMT, from Trades Councils, Momentum, local Councillors and Members of Parliament, Richard Burgon and Jeremy Corbyn, who praised the daily work of the Hospital as a beacon in the world but highlighted the injustices of outsourcing and creeping, but accelerating, privatisation of the NHS. They gave the strikers well deserved support and solidarity in their fight for equality and justice.

The strikers want to be taken back in-house. Samuel Awittor, security guard for GOSH and UVW member, has shown that this is everybody’s fight: “People need dignified jobs, dignified pay, dignified conditions at work.”

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Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Previously, the GOSH cleaners won a battle against their outsourcing last summer, when they forced the hospital to ditch private contractor OCS Group UK Ltd and transfer their contracts in-house.

In parallel with the strike, the security guards are considering taking the hospital to an Employment Tribunal in a group indirect race discrimination claim. As security guard and UVW member Erica Rasheed, has stated on the that “We feel that it is very unfair, very unjust and it could constitute racial discrimination, because most of us are from Asian and Black backgrounds.” 

The strikers will be on the picket line continuously for 6 weeks. Add your name to the online petition and please join the striking security guards outside Great Ormond Street Hospital, Great Ormond Street, London WC1N 3JH, so that we can all contribute to this fight against outsourcing.

The guards are calling on your solidarity to win!

Omer Ahmed, one of the GOSH strikers, will be speaking at Counterfire's News from the Frontline: The Strikers Speak rally on Wednesday 9 February at 7pm. Register on Zoom here.

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