Outsourced health workers in east London are ramping up their fight against multinational Serco.
The Unite union members were set to escalate their action with a five-day walk out on Friday—the first of a series of five-day strikes against poverty pay.
The largely migrant, low paid workers are cleaners, domestics, porters and security staff across four sites at Barts Health NHS Trust.
This latest round comes after three successful walkouts over the last two months—and bosses are feeling the pressure.
Striker Avinash told Socialist Worker, “As soon as we went back to work, people were saying the whole hospital is dirty.
“The scabs they’re bringing in don’t know how to do the work.”
Unite has said that bosses are illegally shipping in agency workers to do the strikers’ jobs.
In the face of bosses’ attempts to force them back to work, solidarity has been key to keeping up workers morale. “Lots of people are supporting the strike—it makes us happy and helps us to carry on,” Avinash said.
Health campaigners and other trade unionists have joined the picket lines and raised hundreds of pounds in donations. Strikers have been speaking at union branch meetings across the capital. It’s vital that supporters build on this solidarity.
Avinash said that, since the last strike, more workers within the hospital are hearing about their fight. Some rank and file Unison union members have supported them, but getting greater solidarity from within the four hospitals is crucial to forcing the bosses to retreat.
That can also give confidence to workers to keep up the fight, and encourage those who are going into work to join the picket lines.
The Barts workers have won support because their fight chimes with anger at low pay and the Tories’ 1 percent public sector pay cap. Most strikers earn just over the London Living Wage.
Bosses offered just over £2 more a week, which workers rejected. They are determined to win 30p an hour. Serco made £82 million profit in 2016.
Since Serco took over the “facilities management” contract in April it has faced resistance—including an unofficial walkout that reinstated tea breaks.
Avinash said, “We’re not going to stop until our demands are met.
“All the hospitals have to stand together—if we’re united we can win, if we’re divided we will fall.”
A win for Serco strikers will be a boost to everyone fighting against poverty pay and the public sector pay cap.