Some 150 workers at Ealing Hospital began a seven-day strike on Friday of last week to demand better pay.
The strikers are porters, domestic, catering, and help desk workers employed by Compass Medirest.
They currently receive only £6.31 an hour—44 percent below the lowest comparable NHS rate in London of £9.09 per hour.
And despite many domestic staff working with medical waste which puts them at risk of infection, the workers are granted no annual sick pay.
“It’s really hard work we do, and we don’t get paid if we get sick,” striker Sunita told Socialist Worker.
“It’s not right.”
There was a steady stream of support at the picket line as passing buses, ambulances and cars beeped in support of the strikers.
Domingo Fernandez is a GMB union rep at the hospital. He told Socialist Worker, “Nurses and doctors are behind us.
“When we showed doctors our pay slips they couldn’t believe how low paid we are.”
The workers have already struck for a total of four days this year alone in the row over pay.
But bosses didn’t deliver on their demands—for better pay and sick pay for one week on full pay, plus three weeks’ half pay. So they decided to escalate.
“Bosses got quite a shock when we announced we were going on a seven-day strike,” said Domingo.
“We took around a petition and everyone in the union said they wanted to strike again.”
Bosses offered them a rise to £8.80 from 2015—but Domingo said that wasn’t good enough as some workers might not be at the hospital by then. Bosses tried to divide workers in the run-up to the strike. Domingo said, “They said to some workers, ‘Don’t go on strike, if you want anything you shouldn’t strike.’”
Unite and Unison are the other two unions who represent porters, domestic, catering, and help desk workers at the hospital.
The striking cleaners were frustrated that those unions did not hold a ballot for their members to strike in solidarity with them.
“It’s disappointing,” said Domingo.
“We came together to save this hospital when it was under threat of closure a few years ago, and we need unity now.”
Four more strikes in Yorkshire Ambulance Service
Yorkshire ambulance workers were set to strike for five hours between 3pm and 8pm on Friday of this week, Monday of next week and next Saturday.
A further five-hour strike is planned between 3am and 8am on Monday 31 March.
The Unite union members are in dispute over attacks on their conditions.
Workers say the attacks will put safety at risk.