Health workers at St George’s Hospital in south London struck for equal pay and conditions on Tuesday.
News that the hospital trust had been placed in special measures was breaking as Socialist Worker went to press.
The GMB union members work for outsourcing giant G4S and provide ambulance transport in non-emergency situations.
They want the same treatment as in-house NHS workers.
Workers told Socialist Worker they were “barely paid” the minimum wage. Jake said, “We don’t get paid the same as other workers—and we haven’t had a pay rise in about three years.
“We’ve only just got a ‘living allowance’, but that’s just a little sweetener, it’s not the same as London weighting.”
He added, “I’ve been working here for over a decade and management have been fobbing us off with false promises all that time.”
Workers are angry about G4S’s poverty pay, but some have also raised health and safety issues.
Andy told Socialist Worker, “I’ve seen all sorts, including swine flu outbreaks. But we don’t get offered flu jabs.”
He added, “We want to have equal pay with in-house workers, just like the doctors, nurses, porters and everyone else.”
The workers also demand the reinstatement of their two union reps. Kieron Merrett, the GMB regional organiser, told Socialist Worker, “We’ve had both of our shop stewards suspended during the pay dispute.
“One of them was suspended only a couple of hours before we gave in the formal strike notice on 25 October. G4S have said they have allegations against them, but we find the timing of the suspension suspicious.”
Workers rejected a last-minute offer from G4S, which failed to bring them onto an equal footing.
Merrett said, “We met with management just before the strike and they said the money we were asking for was ‘small beer’. This is about the principle of it now.”
The first walkout was solid—and workers are determined to resist the attacks. As Jake said, “We’ve had a lot of support—practically everyone who is in the union is out.
“If G4S doesn’t back down, then I would be prepared to go on strike again. We need solidarity—we’ve put up with this for too many years.”
This is an important fight for equal pay and also highlights a key part of the Tory assault on the NHS—privatisation.
Every trade unionist and health campaigner should build solidarity with these workers.