Socialist Worker

Hospital strikes can deal a blow to NHS privatisation agenda

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2665

A previous strike day at Bradford teaching hospital

A previous strike day at Bradford teaching hospital (Pic: Unison Bradford Health Branch)


The fight against NHS privatisation and low pay is hotting up this summer as health workers prepare for a spate of strikes.

Health visitors in Lincolnshire were set to walk out for two days from Thursday of this week.

The Unite union members were transferred from the NHS to the local county council in October 2017. Their pay has been frozen since the move—even though both NHS and local government workers received small pay increases during this time.

This has seen some health visitors lose up to £2,000 a year.

Caroline Fisher, a Unite member and health visitor of 37 years, explained that the situation has been made worse by Tory austerity. “As part of austerity measures pay was frozen for a long time,” she said.

“So in all it’s about eight years that I’ve not had a pay increase, and I am at the top of my pay band and I’ve been there for about five years not getting a pay rise.”

Planning

She added, “This pinches into my pocket and my family’s—I should be planning for my retirement this year but instead I’m having to defer it.”

The health visitors in Lincolnshire aren’t the only group fighting for the same pay as those directly employed by the NHS.

Unison union members at three hospital trusts in the North West of England plan to walk out on Wednesday of next week. The workers, who are outsourced to Compass, are demanding NHS Agenda for Change pay and terms and conditions.

The action will hit St Helens and Knowsley teaching hospitals, Blackpool teaching hospitals and Liverpool chest and heart hospitals.

The majority of the cleaners, porters, security guards and other support staff are on the minimum wage of just £8.21 an hour. But they work alongside other workers, directly employed by the NHS, who are on £9.03 an hour.

This means outsourced workers can receive up to £1,600 a year less.

Workers have shown they are determined to win

The disparity in pay is a stark warning of what happens when hospital bosses outsource workers. It’s what around 300 workers at Bradford Teaching Hospitals are fighting to prevent, with a two-week strike planned from Thursday of next week.

Bosses want to transfer workers to a wholly-owned subsidiary—a privately-registered company whose sole shareholder is the NHS trust. Such companies are mechanisms to drive down wages and terms and conditions, as a stepping stone to full-blown privatisation down the line.

Tony Pearson, the Unison union’s health of health Yorkshire and Humberside said, “The trust continues to put out misleading claims that staff terms and conditions can be guaranteed for 25 years.

"Yet acting chief executive John Holden openly admitted in a meeting with Unison representatives last Tuesday that the Trust could not legally guarantee these claims.”

The workers, who have already struck for a week, have shown that they are determined to win.

Every trade unionist should support their struggles.


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.