As tens of thousands of people from across Britain prepare to come to London this weekend and demonstrate for the NHS, health workers are readying themselves for more strikes.
Hospital porters, cleaners and support staff in Wigan were set to begin a five-day strike on Thursday this week. It marks a serious escalation in their fight against bosses’ plans to outsource 900 jobs.
Edmund is a Unison union member in Wigan. “We can’t wait for the five-day strike,” he told Socialist Worker. “The mood is really good.
“We’re all determined to win and stay in the NHS.”
Bosses at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust want to outsource jobs to WWL Solutions Ltd.
It is one of a growing number of wholly-owned subsidiaries in NHS England.
While owned by the NHS trust—for the meantime—workers would no longer be on the NHS pay roll.
This means bosses could, in the future, slash their wages and terms and conditions and hire new starters on worse contracts.
There are rumours of discussions between unions and management about keeping the services in-house —but at a terrible cost of job losses and worse conditions.
That’s blackmail, and will hit both the NHS and workers’ lives.
There is no need for the unions to agree to a shoddy deal.
Solidarity has been pouring in to the Wigan fight from across the labour movement.
“We hear at strike committee meetings about the support we’re getting in,” said Edmund.
“Everyone is really overwhelmed by it.
“I heard we’ve had £5,000 from one donation.”
Strikers were given a standing ovation and donations at the Unison union national conference in Brighton last week.
And workers were joined by Labour MP Yvonne Fovargue in Wigan town centre on Saturday as they collected money for their hardship fund.
Bosses were set to decide on their next steps at a board meeting on Wednesday.
Edmund explained, “The board meeting will decide if they still want to put us into a wholly-owned subsidiary or listen to the workforce.
“If they backed off we wouldn’t be striking, but I know how hard-faced they are.”
He added, “They don’t want to save money—they want to make money.”
Unite union members were set to walkout out separately on Wednesday—as well as for five days from Thursday.
Edmund said, “Us Unison members are going to go out on break times to support them. We’ve all got to stick together.”
Unite wants to maximise turnout at the lobby of the board meeting but is not asking Unison to respect its picket lines.
However, picket lines aren’t just another form of protest.
They are organised so strikers can argue with colleagues and other groups of workers not to go into work or to make deliveries in order to maximise the impact of strikes.
Workers’ resistance has already forced back the implantation date from 1 April to 1 August—and they are set on winning.
As Edmund said, “Everyone is more determined than ever. If five days don’t work, we will go to seven days.”
Every trade unionist needs to build solidarity for their crucial fight.
You can help Send messages of solidarity to firstname.lastname@example.org Make cheques out to WWL Unison Welfare and send to Unison Office, Royal Albert Edward Infirmary, Wigan Lane, Wigan, WN1 2NN