Hundreds of health workers in Berkshire and Surrey began a two-day strike against privatisation on Monday.
Cleaners, porters and other support staff are fighting against Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust’s plans to outsource their jobs to a wholly-owned subsidiary.
The trust, serving people to the west of London, would remain the sole shareholder of the privately-registered company, but workers say it’s a stepping stone to full privatisation.
GMB and Unite union members mounted joint picket lines at Frimley Park Hospital, Wexham Hospital in Slough and Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot.
They held a march in Slough town centre on Monday and a “Hands off the NHS” human chain outside Frimley on Tuesday.
Jesika Parmar, a Unite regional officer, said, “The protests demonstrate the depth of anger at what we believe is the biggest proposed wholly-owned subsidiary in England.
“Our members have voted overwhelmingly that they have no wish to be employed by a wholly-owned subsidiary designed to avoid paying tax. They are concerned that their pay and employment conditions will be seriously eroded and that it will lead to services for patients being adversely affected.”
Wholly-owned subsidiaries allow NHS bosses to undermine pay and conditions, making services more attractive for private companies.
The Unison union wrongly backed off from joining the action after bosses’ gave “assurances”. Steve Torrance, Unison south east regional secretary, said, “Unison will take no further action for the time being and as a result the trust has agreed not to continue with its existing plans while these other options are pursued.”
Strikes, or the threat of strikes, have forced bosses to back down from similar plans in a number of trusts.
Cleaners, caterers and porters at St Mary’s Hospital in west London are set to walk out in their third wave of strikes next week.
The members of the United Voices of the World union, outsourced to Sodexo, are demanding equality with NHS workers. A four-day strike is set to begin next Monday.
Lincs health visitors launch month-long strike
Health visitors in Lincolnshire began a month-long walkout over pay and terms and conditions on Monday.
It marks a serious escalation by the 76 Unite union members at Tory-run Lincolnshire County Council.
Around 50 workers, who were transferred from the NHS to the local authority in 2017, have staged 32 days of strikes since June.
They have not received a pay rise since the transfer—despite pay deals in both the NHS and local government.
Other health visitors at the council have now joined the dispute to demand all workers are put on the higher pay band 10.
Unite regional officer Steve Syson said, “The decision to hold a month?long strike demonstrates the deepening crisis in the county’s health visitor service.
“It shows the adverse impact this is having on families and children.
“Already the council is haemorrhaging health visitors.”
Trade unionists should hold solidarity collections in their workplaces and branches for the strikers.