Socialist Worker

121 days- still fighting

Issue No. 1739

Dudley NHS strike

121 days- still fighting

DUDLEY HEALTH workers began another three-week strike on Monday in their fight against NHS privatisation. The 600 ancillary workers have now clocked up 121 days on strike in their inspiring fight to stop private consortium Summit Healthcare taking over their jobs.

Their determined action since August last year has shaken the NHS trust and New Labour, who are backing the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme. The PFI scheme will mean hospitals closing, the loss of 70 beds and 170 jobs axed.

But the strike has forced the private companies involved to repeatedly delay signing the lucrative transfer contract. The latest deadline for the transfer of the workers' jobs was due to be Wednesday of this week. "Despite such threats the strikers' morale remains very high," said Mark New, UNISON joint branch secretary for the Dudley Group of Hospitals.

"It was really boosted by the 1,000-plus demonstrators who assembled in Birmingham two weeks ago." The government wants to use Dudley as an example to ram through similar PFI schemes across the country.

The strikers have decided to directly challenge New Labour's policies by standing striker Angela Thompson as a Socialist Alliance candidate. Supporters were out building her campaign last weekend with stalls in two local shopping centres and leafleting round estates. The strikers are also urging people to step up their solidarity collections and messages to help raise the profile of the dispute around the country.

Workers from the UCLH hospitals in London are one group who have been collecting for the strikers. They handed over �1,000 in cheques to the strike fund at the Birmingham march.

Mark Smith is one of the strikers who has been touring Britain raising support for the strike. He said, "Wherever I've been there's been 100 percent backing for Dudley.We are calling on UNISON to give us a national day of action." The strikers want to put that demand to UNISON's annual health conference in Cardiff later this month. They are planning to hold a rally and fringe meeting at the conference at 12.30pm on 26 March.

A one-day conference organising the resistance to privatisation 

Called by the Dudley strikers Saturday 31 March, 12 noon-4pm South Camden Community School, Charrington Street, London NW1 Speakers include Tony Benn MP * Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary elect * Bob Crow, RMT assistant general secretary * Liz Davies, ex Labour Party NEC

Tickets cost �5 Backed by the RMT national executive and the London region of the RMT, ASLEF and FBU unions

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Sat 17 Mar 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1739
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