Hundreds of health workers in the north west of England began their fifth round of strikes for equal pay this week.
Unison union members at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and St Helen’s and Knowsley Hospital began a 48-hour walkout on Monday.
The cleaners, porters, and other support staff are demanding subcontractor Compass gives them the same rate of pay as workers employed directly by the NHS.
Workers on the Compass contract only receive the minimum wage rate of £8.21 an hour. They work alongside NHS staff doing similar jobs on £9.03 an hour—meaning full-time staff lose around £1,500 a year.
Compass doesn’t pay shift bonuses for weekends and bank holidays and doesn’t provide a sick pay scheme.
Lisa Oxbury, Unison’s north west regional organiser, said, “There is growing concern that NHS privatisation is having a negative impact on patient safety, cleanliness, food quality, efficiency and the fair treatment of health service staff.
“In St Helens and Blackpool, the staff know only too well the impact of NHS outsourcing.
“Multibillion pound Compass has no interest in patients or staff, its focus is simply striving to deliver a profit.”
She added, “It’s time for the two NHS trusts in St Helens and Blackpool to say enough is enough. It’s down to them to get Compass under control or bring services back in-house.”
Strikes by outsourced workers at nearby the Liverpool Women’s Hospital and Royal Bolton Infirmary have won NHS rates of pay in the last year.
Trade unionists should raise solidarity in their workplaces to make sure Compass workers can keep up their fight.
St Mary’s workers step up the fight against Sodexo
Members of the United Voices of the World union (UVW) at St Mary’s Hospital in west London began a four?day strike on Monday. This will be their seventh to tenth days on strike.
The 200 cleaners, caterers and porters are outsourced by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to multinational Sodexo.
They want the same pay and conditions as those directly employed by the NHS.
They also want to be brought in house. Unless bosses give in, the workers are set to begin an indefinite strike in January.
Petros Elia, a UVW organiser, said, “We cannot allow for there to be a two?tiered, racially divided workforce within the NHS, and we won’t stop striking until that is put to an end.”
A further five days of strikes are planned from 9 December.
Victory in Bradford NHS
Health workers in West Yorkshire are celebrating after bosses dropped their privatisation plans last week.
Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust wanted to transfer hundreds of cleaners, porters and other support staff to a wholly-owned subsidiary.
A week-long strike—and the threat of all-out action—by Unison union members forced bosses to shelve the plans.
Trust chief executive, Mel Pickup, has now confirmed that “the Board has decided not to continue with plans to create a new company”.
Bosses have now said they will look for “productivity gains”. This must be resisted.