Hospital workers at four south London hospitals struck for a £10 an hour living wage this morning, Monday. The GMB union members are fighting US multinational Aramark for a £10 an hour living wage.
The predominately women migrant workers from Africa, South America and eastern Europe work across the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust’s four mental health hospitals.
Pickets were out in force at Maudsley Hospital in Lambeth this morning. Emily told Socialist Worker, “My bills are more than the money I'm earning, but we have a rich employer and deserve more.
“That’s why we’re out for a pay rise.”
Outsourcing giant Aramark raked in profits of £267 million worldwide in 2015. But it only pays many of its workers £7.48 an hour—more than £2 below the London Living Wage
Catia, a GMB union rep, told Socialist Worker, “I’ve been working here for nine years and during that time we’ve only had a £1.40 pay rise. But we’re not just fighting for £10 an hour—the workforce is split between old and new workers.”
Those who began working after Aramark took over the contract from outsourcer ISS have worse pay and terms and conditions.
As Katarina told Socialist Worker, “Our contract is rubbish. You only get sick pay after three days and it ends after ten days. You don’t get that in your first year. You only get 20 days holiday a year.”
Jane told Socialist Worker, “We do the same jobs—why should we be paid differently?”
Workers also said that the workload has gone up. Katy told Socialist Worker, “It’s really difficult—there’s more work but less money.”
Jane added, “You’re expected to work and work and work. I’m by myself now, before there was two of us doing the same amount of work.”
But workers have shown how they can take on the bosses—and their fight is part of a broader struggle against NHS privatisation.
The GMB members had voted 97 percent to strike on a 51 percent turnout.
As Catia said, “The ballot is quite impressive—it shows that we’re willing to fight. If they don’t come up with something reasonable, I wouldn’t say no to us striking again.”
Their picket lines are also the perfect antidote to the racists who seek to divide working class people by scapegoating migrants. Every trade unionist should build solidarity for their fight.
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Thanks to Mark Dunk