HEALTH WORKERS in Dudley in the West Midlands struck for three weeks over Christmas and got a huge boost from the solidarity they received. Over 250 strikers and their families tasted the level of support at a party just before Christmas.
The strike against the selloff of jobs to five private companies in the Summit Healthcare consortium was a huge success, getting lots of national and local press coverage over the holiday period. Workers voted overwhelmingly for another three-week strike at a mass meeting last week and plan to start the action next week. They also voted to support a striker as a candidate, standing on a Socialist Alliance ticket, against New Labour MP for Dudley South Ian Pearson in the general election.
Pearson has created huge bitterness among the strikers. He stood on a platform of saving Wordsley Hospital and fighting privatisation when he first became an MP in a by-election in 1995. Now he supports the Dudley privatisation plan. Strikers plan to demonstrate against every New Labour health minister during the forthcoming strike.
They are also demanding that their UNISON national union steps up its support for the strike and calls a national day of solidarity action.
DUDLEY strikers have already been sold from one private firm to another even before they are transferred out of the NHS. Building & Property Group, the main private company taking over their jobs, has just been bought by the construction firm Tilbury & Douglas. Tilbury is tied up with the private prisons market. It won a £45 million contract to build a prison in Salford in partnership with the Corrections Corporation of America.
RUSH MESSAGES of support to UNISON Dudley Group of Hospitals, UNISON Office, Wordsley Hospital, Stourbridge, West Midlands DY8 5QX. Phone/fax 01384 244 350.
Poor pay means nurse shortages
THE government gave nurses and other medical health staff a lousy pay offer just before Christmas. The vast majority of nurses will get only 3.7 percent next year. That is only just above inflation.
A newly qualified nurse will take home just £8 a week extra. The government claims it will recruit an extra 20,000 nurses into the NHS by 2004. But how on earth are such miserly pay rises going to attract the extra nurses the NHS needs? There are currently over 22,000 nursing vacancies.
Ward sisters and managers will get a higher rise- between 5.2 and 5.4 percent. But many nurses have rightly denounced the fact that the vast majority of staff will be left struggling.
Emergency cases put in hotels
NHS MANAGERS at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth are planning to book patients who have just had operations into hotels to deal with an expected winter crisis. The plan shows the reality of staff and bed shortages behind government claims to have dealt with the NHS crisis.
Plymouth Hospital bosses are even considering sending some emergency cases to hotels, with just one nurse on standby nearby. A leaked management memo asks, 'Are there any emergency admissions which could use hotels at all? ... Any ideas?'
It continues, 'The operating theatres are so poorly equipped that it was recommended that patients sign a consent form to say they know they are taking a risk over and above normal.'
Xmas party cheer
SUPPORTERS brought around £15,000 worth of donations and presents to the strikers' Christmas party. The mountain of toys and presents ensured every family went home laden with gifts. Tony, a security guard from Russells Hall, said, 'We know the support is out there but we've not had that from the national level of the union. The support from around the country and donations have given us a lot of heart.'
Mark, a striker from Corbetts Hospital, spoke at the party about the tour he had just returned from to raise support for the strike. 'We did Oxford and Scotland and the support is 100 percent solid. We've come back with loads more goodies and £3,000 in donations,' he said to cheers from the audience.