Solidarity from trade unionists and campaigners throughout this week has spurred outsourced health workers in east London to take on multinational Serco.
The Unite union members began a two-week walkout for higher pay across four hospitals at Barts Health NHS Trust last Tuesday. They are demanding a 30p an hour pay rise.
Sonia, a picket at the Royal London Hospital, told Socialist Worker, “It will take more than a week to win what we want, but if we all stick together we can. When everybody is supporting us in our fight, it gives us the courage to carry on."
Muhammad, another picket at the Royal London, added, “We've had lots of people coming here to support us—doctors, nurses and people from the community.”
Trade unionists and health campaigners have been organising to deliver solidarity for their fight.
Workers from Waltham Forest Town Hall and nearby Whipps Cross Hospital donated £53 to the strike fund to help keep the fight up.
Teachers in the NUT union from Hackney in east London and Islington in north London joined the picket lines outside the Royal London hospital.
At an Islington trades council meeting on Thursday two strikers gave a rousing speech and received a £280 donation and a further room collection at the end.
In the face of management’s attempts of force them back to work broken, solidarity is all the more important. As Julie, a picket at St Barts Hospital, told Socialist Worker, “This support gives us encouragement.
“We’ve had support from the local MP, teachers and socialists coming to support us—there’s just been so many of them.”
The low-paid, largely migrant workers are determined not to let the bosses deter them from striking
Unite has said that Serco is illegally bringing in agency workers to undermine the strike.
Workers are also angry at how management are making it difficult for them to get their pay slips. “They said we weren’t allowed into the building to collect our pay slips," explained Julie. “They said they would come out at 2pm today to give them to us, but they’re making it very difficult for us to get them.”
But the low-paid, largely migrant workers are determined not to let the bosses deter them from striking. Striker Akesha told Socialist Worker, “If we don’t fight now, we won’t be ready to fight again.
“Serco are going to come back and try to take something else from us.”
Muhammad added, “They told us, ‘If you strike, ‘We’ll sack you’. Well, we say, ‘We have to strike.”
Workers are looking at a joint protest with fellow Unite members at British Airways (BA) and the Bank of England. They also plan to leaflet outside the Serco annual reports presentation from 7.30am at in London this Thursday (see below).
Every trade unionist and campaigner needs to build solidarity for their fight.
Serco-run centre breached detainee’s human rights
An asylum seeker from Kenya has won a case against the Home Office over her treatment in Yarl’s Wood detention centre.
The prison for asylum seekers in Bedfordshire is run by outsourcing giant Serco.
The judge found that the Home Office had acted unlawfully and breached her human rights by keeping her in a “punishment room” for 28 hours.
Officers have to gain permission from the home secretary to keep anyone in isolation after the first 24 hours.
The woman said, “I wasn’t just doing it for myself but for thousands of other immigration detainees who are also placed in segregation often without good reason.”
Every year 1,200-4,800
detainees suffer from being segregated in immigration detention centres.
Some 30,000 people are locked up every year in Britain’s racist immigration system without any time limit.
New Tory funds not enough
Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt claims the government is beginning one of the “biggest expansions of mental health services in Europe”.
The plan would inject £1.3 billion into services by 2021, creating 21,000 more mental health posts.
But Hunt’s promise comes after more than seven years of hammering mental health services—and his figures don’t add up.
Since the Tories got into office in 2010 there are over 5,000 fewer mental health nurses.
Poverty pay, rocketing workloads and slashing the health worker student bursary are turning people away from the NHS.
As Royal College of Nursing (RCN) chief executive Janet Davies said, “If these nurses were going to be ready in time, they would be starting training next month.
“But we have seen that the withdrawal of the bursary has led to a sharp fall in university applications and we are yet to see funding for additional places.”