Porters in the Unite union at Ninewells and Royal Victoria Hospitals in Dundee started an indefinite strike on Tuesday of last week.
Low pay is a burning issue for many workers.
And like the homelessness case workers in Glasgow the porters aren't waiting for the general election in May to improve their lot but are fighting for it themselves.
Strikers told Socialist Worker they are out for the “long haul”.
Their picket line is a statement of intent—complete with gazebo, fire brazier, table, chairs and even a TV and vacuum cleaner.
The dispute goes back to a 2004 pay review that put the workers on the lowest NHS wage, grade 1. They are fighting to be moved to grade 2, which is what most hospital porters in Scotland are on.
Striker Ross said, “On the wages we get you can only just pay bills. I have to say to my kids ‘dad’s got no pocket money for you’. You feel terrible because you want to treat your kids.”
After a series of strikes this year the porters decided to escalate their action. “We were left with no choice but to go all-out,” said another striker, Vince.
“We’ve been victimised and bullied by managers deducting wages incorrectly for the strikes we held over the last month. It’s made us more determined—we’re not giving up.”
The porters transport patients and medical supplies. They perform many tasks that are crucial to the caring environment.
Vince said, “We’re treated like numbers to be disposed of easily. They don’t care we’re low paid workers.”
Yet the man responsible for the workers’ treatment, NHS Tayside human resources director George Doherty, claims it’s the strike that shows disregard for patients.
Unite regional organiser Colin Coupar said NHS bosses are “are doing nothing to resolve the issue”. Trust bosses have tried to use anti-union laws against the porters.
As Ross pointed out, “If the NHS can spend £100,000 to try and use the courts to stop our strike, it can afford to pay us properly.”
Scottish health minister Shona Robison is also a local MSP in the Scottish National Party (SNP), which opposes these laws. Strikers have asked what she’s doing about the dispute. So far she has kept quiet.
The porters have been overwhelmed by the solidarity they have received so far.
They told Socialist Worker that dockers in Liverpool and Glasgow Unite branch both donated £5,000. Support has also come from ambulance workers and firefighters.
Linking up with Glasgow homelessness caseworkers has inspired strikers to unite their fights. “We need to build pressure,” Ross said. “I think we should all go to Holyrood together and protest.”
The porters’ struggle is a beacon to everyone fighting austerity to defend our public services. We need to back them.
Support the hospital porters
- Go to Support Ninewells Porters on Facebook
- Send strike fund donation cheques to Unite, 110 Blackness Road, Dundee DD1 5PB or donate online at crowdfunder.co.uk/support-ninewells-porters