Around 1,000 low-paid, mainly migrant health workers in east London launched a three-day walkout on Tuesday.
Outsourcing giant Serco wants to keep their wages down. But the strikers are fighting for a pay rise of 30p an hour.
One striker, David, told Socialist Worker, “Rent is going up, bills are going up, but our pay is not.
“Low pay means you can’t do anything nice with your family, you can’t take your kids out.”
But workers’ anger goes much deeper than pay. Under Serco, their workload has skyrocketed.
Keith, a domestic worker, explained, “We now have to do some nurses’ jobs that are defined as ‘clinical’, such as cleaning the equipment.”
And strikers said that not only is Serco making them do more work, it doesn’t give them the proper equipment.
Joana said, “If we run out of detergent supplies, management just say clean the floors with water.
“That’s not good for us or for the patients.”
There were exuberant scenes across the four sites as workers unleashed their pent-up fury at the bosses.
Over 100 strikers rallied outside the Royal London hospital for a morning rally to chants of “Clean up Serco”.
Antonia, a domestic worker, told Socialist Worker, “Serco are wicked, wicked people.
“They told us that going on strike would go against the patients—that’s bullying and we’re sick and tired of it.”
The workers’ experience shines a light on what privatisation in the NHS means—bumper profits for bosses, worsening pay and conditions for workers and run-down services.
But they have already shown that they’re determined to fight.
When Serco took over the contract in April they slashed workers’ tea breaks.
In response the cleaners struck unofficially and won them back.
Alison, a union rep, told Socialist Worker, “When I got into the kitchen I was told I couldn’t take my 15-minute tea break. That’s when we started to organise ourselves—we stand as one and we can win.”
Unite balloted workers for action after the unofficial walkout and they voted by 99 percent for strikes on a 52 percent turnout.
They plan a week-long walkout from next Tuesday and a two-week long strike from Tuesday 25 July.
Mainstream politicians often blame migrants for lowering wages. But these migrant workers are fighting to raise them.
That’s why everyone has to build solidarity for their struggle.