Socialist Worker

Health workers take on ISS privateers at east London hospital

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2515

On the protest outside Homerton Hospital on Thursday

On the protest outside Homerton Hospital on Thursday (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Health workers employed by outsourcing giant ISS at Homerton Hospital in east London are fighting attacks on their hours and jobs.

Around 50 cleaners, caterers and security staff in the Unison union and their supporters rallied outside the hospital gates this lunchtime, Thursday. The workforce numbers some 240.

Hospital bosses awarded ISS a new “facility management contract” last October worth more than £45 million over five years.

The new contract swallows up all services, such as cleaning, portering and security, previously done by different companies.

ISS have since threatened job cuts or “redeployment” if workers don’t accept a reduction in hours. The reduction could see some workers lose up to 20 or 25 percent of their pay.

One of the workers, Jack, told Socialist Worker, “The changes will impact highly on patient care. We do the cleaning—if you reduce our hours, how will the cleaning get done?”

Geraldine, another worker said, “We have the experience and know what our patients need.

“We just don’t understand why they’re trying to get rid of us.”

She added, “If we weren’t here and no one did the cleaning, it would affect the whole hospital. How can you care for patients in a dirty environment?”

Blow

Bosses attacks would deal a devastating blow to workers’ pay. Jack said, “People have families to look after.

“We currently work 35 hours a week. If you reduce it work by one hour a day, that’s five hours a week, 20 hours a month—that’s a lot of money.”

Workers told Socialist Worker that they are already understaffed and lack the resources to do the job properly.

David told Socialist Worker, “We are already struggling and reducing our hours would make this work.

“We don’t have enough staff and don’t have enough stock. We can’t dry the mops properly meaning they smell and are unhygienic, so they told us not use that material. Now they’ve given us that same material.

“They’re always giving reasons, we’re told ‘Don’t worry, a delivery is coming soon’.

He added, “They didn’t used to give us proper training, they’re only doing it now because they can see something is going on.”

But the workers are defiant in the face of bosses’ attacks and the mood on the protest was clear.  

When workers were asked if they would be willing strike every hand shot up. As Geraldine said, “Am I in favour of striking—of course I am.”

Unison should immediately ballot its members—strikes can beat back the ISS bosses and strike a blow against privatisation

Workers names have been changed


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.