More than 60 London ambulance workers in the GMB union protested this morning outside a meeting of the South London Healthcare NHS Trust. They are fighting to stop privatisation and have voted by over 95 percent to take strike action.
The workers are employed by London Ambulance Service’s passenger transport service and are determined to stop South London Healthcare transferring their work to a private company, Savoy Ventures Ltd.
The workers transport patients to and from several hospitals in South London. They want to keep their vital service in the public sector, and are well aware of the dangers of being privatised.
Ambulance workers David and Daryl were among those joining the protest. They both said that they worry about what will happen to their patients if the transfer goes ahead.
“We do a good job and we have a real rapport with our patients,” David told Socialist Worker. “I’ve done this job for 25 years and I still love it. When I started out I thought that I would be working for the NHS for life, not for some small company that only cares about making money.”
Daryl added, “Lots of patients are worried about what will happen. We hear horror stories from some of them about what the private transport services mean. It’s wrong that an NHS body should be employing a private company—they are throwing quality away.
“We know that if the transfer goes ahead, things will get worse. Even the conditions they do transfer across—we know they’ll come for those down the line.”
The workers protested outside the main entrance to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, winning lots of support from hospital staff and patients. They then went into the Trust’s meeting to make the strength of feeling clear.
The South London Healthcare Trust has named Savoy as its preferred bidder for the passenger transport contract, despite the workers’ objections.
Savoy has already told the passenger transport workers that it has no intention of transferring the workers on their existing terms and conditions.
GMB steward Tony Hall from Greenwich ambulance station told Socialist Worker, “Savoy has told us that we would no longer get London weighting, which would mean losing around £4,000 off our salaries. And they won’t recognise our final salary pensions.
“After working for London Ambulance Service for 19 years, that would be a real hardship for myself, my family and my colleagues.”
Ann from Barnhurst station agreed. “The attacks on our pensions are life changing,” she said. “But, we’re more professional than that. We always err on the side of safety for our patients. We should keep as much of the NHS in public hands as possible.”
The Trust did not declare a final decision on the contract at its board meeting today, but workers are clear that they will strike to defend their service and conditions if the transfer goes ahead.