Socialist Worker

Get behind NHS strike in Wigan

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2607

NHS workers on strike in Wigan last month

NHS workers on strike in Wigan last month (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Hundreds of hospital porters, cleaners and other support staff are ramping up their fight against a dangerous new form of privatisation.

Unison and Unite union members at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Trust were set to strike for two days from Friday this week.

It will be the second 48-hour walkout against bosses’ plans to outsource their jobs to WWL Solutions Ltd, a “wholly-owned subsidiary” in NHS England.

Workers were incensed by a tweet from Mike Evans, son of trust estates and facilities associate director David Evans.

It said, “Everyone who has taken part in this strike is a lazy jobsworth looser that will never amount to anything.

“Set of scumbags just like you @jeremycorbyn.”

One Wigan porter in Unison told Socialist Worker, “When I got into work last Friday everyone was enraged about the tweet. It only makes our fight stronger—we want to stick it to them more.”

Confidence

The first walkout gave workers confidence.

The porter said, “I had never been on strike before and didn’t think as many would show up.

“But almost everyone in my department of around 50 came to do at least a few hours on the picket line.

Biggest strike against privatisation in years—Road to Wigan Cheer
Biggest strike against privatisation in years—Road to Wigan Cheer
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“Everyone had fun and it brought everyone together.”

While WWL Solutions Ltd would be owned by the trust—for now—workers would no longer be on the NHS pay roll. This would allow bosses to attack wages and conditions.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Jon Ashworth announced plans last weekend to overhaul the Tories structural reforms of the NHS. These could include scrapping the Health and Social Care Act.

This is a shift left—but the plans still don’t include wholesale renationalisation of the NHS or a timetable for change. Wigan workers are right to fight now.

The porter said, “People are definitely up for going out again, but many are also worried about money. We have to say, ‘Don’t worry, there’s a hardship fund’, because we can’t let them break us.”

Unions should announce a programme of industrial action—including a strike that’s longer than 48 hours.

They could also ballot workers at other hospitals facing outsourcing to turn the dispute into a national fight.

Other trade unionists need to collect in workplaces to support the strikers. And the Labour Party could easily sustain the strike if it threw its weight behind it.

A win in Wigan can be the start of rolling back NHS privatisation.

Send messages of support to jean.heyes@wwl.nhs.uk
Make cheques out to WWL Unison Welfare and send to Unison Office, Royal Albert Edward Infirmary, Wigan Lane, Wigan WN1 2NN

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