LOW PAID health workers at Scunthorpe, Grimsby and Goole hospitals took to the picket line in force again on Wednesday of last week. The 400 porters, domestics, laundry and catering workers in North Lincolnshire are the latest group of health workers to take on the low pay, bullying and exploitation of their private contractor bosses.
They have now held three 24-hour strikes against private NHS contractors Carillion - or 'Crapillion' as the workers call them. 'It was carnival time,' reports porter and Unison union shop steward Joe Koper of last Wednesday's strike. 'There was an even bigger turnout on the picket lines than the previous strikes. Some of us dressed up in monkey-suits, holding placards saying, 'I'm no monkey, don't pay me peanuts.' I think we've given management a bit of a shock. We're getting stronger.'
Unison branch secretary at Scunthorpe General, Chris O' Sullivan says, 'This is a strike of contracted out workers against exploitation in the NHS. They have no access to a pension or pay scheme. There is no access to formal training. There are regular breaches of health and safety. Our bosses are outrageous. Carillion are ringing up members at home trying to bully them into breaking the strike.'
Carillion bosses and Unison reps were due to meet on Tuesday of this week for negotiations. 'Unless we get something on the table then we will strike again this Thursday,' says Joe.
'Our overtime ban is biting. There was overwhelming support from strikers to up the stakes and call a five-day strike next week.'
Ancilliary workers at hospitals in east London - Whipps Cross, Homerton, Mile End and St Clement's - are beginning an official Unison ballot this week. Private firms ISS Mediclean and Medirest employ the workers. Like the workers in Lincolnshire, they are fighting to get NHS pay, sick pay and pension rights.
The government is trying to squeeze those who work for the NHS through its 'modernisation' package of pay proposals, 'Agenda for Change'. This will give health workers a miserly 2.3 percent pay rise, and leave many doing longer and more unsociable hours. But health workers are taking things into their own hands.
As Joe Koper says, 'I hope trusts around the country are taking note of what is happening. If they needed an alarm call, this should be it. We won't put up with things any longer.'
Rush donations and messages of support to: Unison Office, General Hospital, Scunthorpe, North Lincs DN15 5BH. Make cheques payable to Scunthorpe health branch hardship fund.