HUNDREDS OF cleaners, porters and catering staff at Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride are to ballot for strike action. Hairmyres is one of New Labour's flagship PFI hospitals. The workers are fuming at their bosses, ISS Mediclean, and at government ministers. The hospital has been lambasted for having too few beds, sewerage leaks, losing patient records and failing IT systems following privatisation.
Now the workers are furious that ISS has failed to keep to a national Scottish pay deal of a minimum rate of £5.18 an hour. Instead the firm is still paying some ancillary workers a basic rate of £4.47 an hour. Some 250 workers voted unanimously for an official strike ballot last week. Unison branch secretary Lillian Macer said, 'Low paid workers are being forced into this position due to the failure of a commercial company to surrender any of its profit margin to honour an agreement which applies everywhere else in Scotland.'
ISS promised workers £5 an hour and better conditions after an overwhelming strike vote by ancillary workers last autumn. Now workers are determined that the company must be forced to pay up. 'We want ISS out of Hairmyres Hospital,' said one Unison shop steward.
This dispute is the latest in a series to hit ISS Mediclean, which is one of the biggest private contracting firms in the NHS.
SOME 400 people joined an energetic demonstration in Harwich, Essex, on Tuesday of last week. They were protesting against the Local Initiative Finance Trust scheme. The scheme will allow the health trust to sell the land on which the local hospital, ambulance station and mental health unit, are situated. The argument that there is money for war but not for the health service got a great reception.
Dozens of school students joined the demonstration. They plan to distribute a leaflet that they are writing, which will call for a school students' strike on Thursday of this week.