Socialist Worker

Striking wins us respect

Issue No. 1772

THREE HUNDRED low paid health workers across ten Glasgow hospitals began an all-out indefinite strike on Tuesday of this week. The 300 medical secretaries are fighting to upgrade their pay and improve their terrible working conditions.

The women workers receive between just £700 and £800 a month for providing a vital job in the NHS. Striker Cathy Craig explains why she is determined to win the battle:

'I'VE WORKED in the NHS for 18 years, and for 14 years as a secretary at Gartnaval Hospital. I have seen huge changes in the NHS. Today it is a shambles. We don't have enough staff or resources, and there is huge mismanagement.

Our strike is important for everyone in the health service and the public sector. We are giving people hope-hope that you can do something, that you can fight back.

We have made hospital workers have a bit of pride. We have been undervalued for such a long time. Now we are standing up and saying that secretaries, along with porters, domestics and other health workers, are important workers.

Management have met us with dirty tricks. But we know the money is there to pay us a decent wage. Bosses have been advertising for new people to do the same jobs as us but on a higher grade. This has just fired people's anger and our determination to fight. The attitude towards us has changed since we started fighting. Management have been shocked.

They thought we were just a bunch of stupid women. They didn't think we had brains and that we would strike. We have won enormous respect among other hospital workers, including doctors. A few years ago the doctors wouldn't have supported us, but now they have had to fight themselves for more equipment, more resources.

And our fight is about the battles we face every day in the health service. The government wants to privatise the NHS, the Post Office and council housing. I never imagined I would take strike action.

But now we've got together and are fighting. The strength within us is unbelievable. Many of us are doing things we never thought we would ever do. I have addressed an anti-privatisation rally and an anti-war rally. A recent front page of the Glasgow Evening Times said that our action was harming patients.

Yet on the same day the government started a war which will mean spending billions bombing people. We are fighting for patients, and have had tremendous support from patients on the picket lines. With the support of other workers we can win this. This week I am going to Newcastle to visit workplaces to raise solidarity. We urge everyone who can to raise solidarity in their own workplace.'

Send messages of support and donations to Kathy McClean, UNISON North Glasgow Hospitals Branch, Cuthbertson Building, Royal Infirmary, Castle Street, Glasgow G4 0SF.

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Article information

Sat 27 Oct 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1772
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