CAMPAIGNERS in east London have stepped up their fight to defend trade union rights and to stop a massive privatisation scheme. Over 40 people met on Thursday of last week to plan the campaign for the full reinstatement of Unison branch secretary Phil Billows (pictured right) at the Barts and Royal London NHS Trust.
Management suspended Phil from his job at the beginning of July and are now 'investigating' his behaviour. Campaigners are clear that this is an attack on the union. As Phil says, 'This suspension is because of our union branch's opposition to PFI.'
Workers across the trust are currently taking part in an indicative ballot organised by Unison on whether they are prepared to take strike action to defend Phil and the union. Unison NEC member Yunus Bakhsh, who addressed the meeting, said that Phil had the full backing of the union, but he stressed that the key to winning the fight was 'to mobilise the people with the real strength, the workers inside the hospital'.
Maureen, who works in medical records, reported, 'There is a good mood for a fight within the hospital. 'We had a section meeting in medical records. There were 29 people present and, apart from one abstention, everyone else voted that they would be prepared to strike.'
The meeting agreed to organise a 'Defend Phil Billows, Defend the NHS' day on Thursday 12 September. This is a week before the indicative ballot closes on Thursday 19 September. They plan to hold mass petitioning, leafleting and stalls, and to encourage workers to collectively post their ballot papers.
This is a crucial fight against what will be one of the biggest PFI schemes in Britain.
To get involved in the campaign or to send messages of support write to Unison Office, Barts and Royal London NHS Trust, Whitechapel Road, London E1 1BB. Phone the union office on 020 7601 8125 or Phil on 07957 562 037.
Fax messages of condemnation to Paul White, chief executive of Barts and Royal London NHS Trust, on 020 7377 7931.