John McGrath reports on the rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice which saw trade unionists and activists bring solidarity to the strikers as they try to overturn the court injunction
Roughly 200 people assembled outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Wednesday morning to demonstrate against the injunction levelled at the security guards striking at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), and the union that represents them, United Voices of the World (UVW).
Security Guards at GOSH are denied the same annual leave, time off for sickness, and career advancement as other NHS workers. The security guards at GOSH, comprised mainly of black, brown, and migrant workers, chose to take strike action to fight back against the two-tier system and the structural racism manifested in unequal working conditions and compensation at the hospital.
Their strike was met with extraordinary hostility by the hospital, and draconian, anti-trade union measures followed suit. The hospital was granted an injunction by the court to limit the number of pickets legally allowed to six, and setting a minimum distance of where picket ines and protests can take place vis-à-vis the entrance to the hospital. Dancing on the picket line will be forbidden.
But no resolution was announced from the courthouse today. The court delayed a decision if any kind. Proceedings will continue tomorrow, Thursday 17 February.
But the gathering outside the courthouse had maybe more significance then what was happening inside. GOSH security guards and UVW representatives were joined by a number of other trade unions and socialist organisations who showed up in solidarity. Representatives from UCU, RMT, IWGB and a handful of others took the mic and encouraged the crowd assembled that they had the security guards’ back.
Eddie Dempsey of RMT pointed out that the stifling of public protest mirrors the anti-protest bill which is being pursued in parliament. He also highlighted the need for workers to support each other, especially now as there is an uptick in labour militancy throughout the country.
“We need to stand behind the UVW. We need to start doing strike action in a coordinated effort together to have maximum impact on employers. Other trade unions need to step in and say to the UVW today ‘We would welcome a letter from you asking us to contribute to the funds that you’re going to pay for this legal action’”.
Henry Lopez of IWGB took the mic and addressed the crowd, saying,
“This is an attack on workers’ rights. This is an attack on trade unions. This is an attack on people who are fighting for equality in this country. This is not fair for the workers who have been exploited at the hospital. They are fighting for equality, they are discriminated, they are fighting for better conditions at work- And the courts cannot stop this for the workers. We need to show them solidarity!”
A number of speakers pointed out that Great Ormond Street Hospital is squarely in Labour Party leader Keir Starmer’s constituency. Starmer has been silent to date on the security guards’ strike and the onerous injunction levelled against them, despite Labour Party’s policy set at conference to support workers’ right to strike against all legal restrictions.
Julia, a Sage Nursing Home worker and UVW member explained,
“The law should be for everybody. It’s only for the rich and powerful, not for the workers. The only way we can change that - that we can change this stupid society that has been created - is to get together. One person cannot do anything; one million can do many, many things. The Labour Party is not going to fight for us - not this Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn, he was someone who would fight for us, but not these silly people who are now there. Let’s get together and let’s fight!”
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