Socialist Worker

Angry, defiant, and staying out

by Keir McKechnie
Issue No. 1828

ON THE same day as the firefighters' eight-day strike started, over 300 health workers at the Glasgow North Health Trust voted to continue their unofficial strike action. The strikers' mood was determined and defiant. One striker said, 'We struck for a decent pay rise for all, and we shouldn't return until we get it.'

The clerical and administration workers, mostly women, are fighting to win a higher grade and improve their poverty pay. They have been out on strike for three weeks - despite the attempts of their NHS bosses to intimidate them back to work, and the lack of support from their Unison union.

The Scottish Executive, NHS managers and Unison have circulated a joint 'concordat' offering a new minimum wage in the NHS of £5.18 an hour. But the concordat demands that all 'collective and class action pay and grading claims currently lodged with employing organisations will be withdrawn'. The £5.18 minimum wage offer is a response to the wave of both official and unofficial action that has hit NHS trusts in Scotland.

But many workers are angry at what they see as an attempt to stop their current strike and to prevent any future action. The concordat fails to address all the workers' grievances. A striker at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary said, 'I'm on top rate Grade 2. 'Agenda for Change would upgrade me to Grade 3 but means no increase in money.'

Anger at Unison's refusal to back the strike was also evident after the meeting. One clerical worker said, 'If the leadership of Unison got behind our strike the way the FBU has got behind their members, the trust management would have been forced to settle by now.' Strikers have been receiving great support from health and other workers (see here).

  • Send messages of support, donations and invitations for strikers to come to your next union meeting c/o J Kerr, 6 Westray Place, Bishopbriggs, Glasgow G64 1UQ. Make cheques payable to 'Family Support Group'.

    Phil Billows

    'YOU'RE EVICTED on New's Year's Eve.' That is the shocking Christmas message health bosses in east London have delivered to a leading union activist, Phil Billows. Health chiefs at the Barts and Royal London Hospital sacked Phil at the end of October.

    This was for unauthorised absence from work and 'serious insubordination'. Workers at the hospital are clear this is an assault on every union member at the trust as it prepares for what will be the biggest NHS PFI privatisation scheme in Britain.

    The trust phoned the charity that runs staff accommodation, telling it that Phil was no longer a member of staff and that it should evict him. This is despite the fact that Phil's case is the subject of an internal appeal, a legal court case and an industrial tribunal. 'This shows how hostile management really are to the union,' says Phil.

    The eviction notice has fuelled anger among staff over Phil's sacking.

    Section meetings in the hospital have expressed support for the Unison branch executive's call for an all-out, indefinite strike to win Phil his job back. Unison is now set to call an official strike ballot in December.

    Send messages of support to Union Office, Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, London E1 1BB. Phone/fax 020 7601 8125.

  • Send messages of protest to Paul White, Barts and Royal London Hospital trust chief executive - fax 020 7377 7931.


    OVER 900 workers at Royal Liverpool Hospital look set to be balloted over a pay increase after striking last week. TGWU and GMB union members who are cleaners, porters and domestic staff are battling against the multinational Sodexho. ACAS held talks with the union leaders and bosses last Thursday, and the strikes were suspended.

    Sodexho has offered only 12p an hour extra. This falls short of the £5 an hour many workers want. One worker said, 'Why call off strikes when we rocked management last week? Lots of Unison union members are encouraging us to fight for more. 'That's what a load of us are planning to do.' A mass meeting to discuss the pay offer is to be held shortly.

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    Article information

    Sat 30 Nov 2002, 00:00 GMT
    Issue No. 1828
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