AROUND 350 low paid health workers in the North Lincolnshire NHS trust have rejected a pay offer from their private employer, Carillion. Domestic, catering and portering staff have walked out on strike on two different occasions in support of their £5.02 an hour pay claim. The workers, at hospitals in Scunthorpe, Grimsby and Goole, endure terrible pay and conditions. Many don't get sick pay or a work pension.
The strikers' determination forced Carillion to increase their pay deal. Bosses offered sick pay and an increase in overall pay, but their offer left many workers on below £5 an hour for two years and some for longer. The strikers rejected the deal by four to one. They are now planning to step up their campaign with a five-day strike, beginning on 28 May. The workers are in the Unison union. Jim Bell, Unison regional officer, said, 'They are determined to take further action until they are given the fair and just treatment which their dedication to the public service they provide merits.'
'Remember Carillion is a company which announced profits of more than £50 million last year and paid one director a bonus on top of his wage of £140,000,' he said. 'Of course, they can afford to pay hardworking frontline staff a decent hourly rate on which they can live.'
The determination of these low paid NHS workers can only increase the confidence of others around the country and give a big boost to striking health workers in east London.
Domestic, portering and catering staff at hospitals across east London are set to strike on Wednesday and Thursday next week. Hundreds of workers will take strike action at Homerton, Whipps Cross, Mile End and St Clements hospitals for a living wage, equal treatment and dignity. The workers affected earn as little as £4.43 an hour.
Since the hospital trusts started contracting these services out to private companies (currently ISS Mediclean at Homerton and Whipps Cross, Compass Medirest at Mile End and St Clements), incoming staff have been treated as second class citizens.
They get lower wages and lower overtime rates than NHS workers and no sick pay. They also get less annual leave, no pension and none of the benefits Unison negotiated for NHS staff. These crucial hospital staff are forced to work overtime at the hospital or have second jobs after their 39-hour week. Overwhelmingly, they are women and immigrant workers.
In July 2002 Unison lodged an official claim with the contractors for £5.53 an hour for all, with sick pay and other benefits. It is a very modest claim, yet these private companies have refused it.
ISS Mediclean increased their profits massively last year and their top directors earn 50 times what they pay our staff. We ask for support from other Unison branches and everyone who wants to see a revolt over low pay and privatisation.
Diana Swingler, Unison branch chair, Homerton University Hospital
Agenda for Change
HEALTH WORKERS in the Amicus-MSF union voted yes in their recent ballot on the government's Agenda for Change pay package. Members voted 78.9 percent in favour of the package.
Union leaders were so worried about opposition to the deal that, like the leaders of the biggest health union Unison, they announced there would be two ballots. Amicus leaders claimed this vote was only to allow 'early implementer' sites to go ahead.
But it is clear the government wants to ram through Agenda for Change as part of its 'modernisation' of the NHS.