Socialist Worker

Health round up: ‘We’ll fight to stay in the NHS,’ say Frimley strikers

Issue No. 2684

GMB and Unite union members struck together in November

GMB and Unite union members struck together in November (Pic: GMB Southern)


Hundreds of health workers in Berkshire and Surrey plan a fresh round of strikes against privatisation.

Unite and GMB union members at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust are set to walk out for three days from Wednesday of next week.

The cleaners and other support staff are fighting plans to outsource 1,000 jobs to a “wholly-owned subsidiary”.

Workers fear the plan is a stepping stone to full-blown privatisation.

While the trust would remain the sole shareholder of the privately-registered company, it would allow bosses to undermine wages and terms and conditions.

Strikes are planned at at Frimley Park, Wexham Park and Heatherwood hospitals.

They come on the back of a two-day strike in November.

It saw very strong support not only from staff directly affected, but also from nurses and doctors within the affected hospitals.

Threaten 

Asia Allison, a GMB regional organiser said, “Setting further dates is a clear indication that the trust will not be able to trick, threaten or bully their way into creating a wholly-owned subsidiary.

“This second phase of industrial action is simply the next step towards, if needs be, a winter of discontent for affected staff at the trust.

“Our members are committed to saving their NHS status.

“No future outside the NHS—in either a wholly owned subsidiary or contractor—is acceptable to them in any form.” Gary Palmer, GMB regional organiser said, “Further strikes will continue to celebrate all forms of solidarity and community.

“We have a vision of when hardworking NHS staff will rid themselves of management set on ruining the NHS through privatisation.”

Unite regional officer Jesika Parmar said, “Already the trust is issuing new

uniforms without the NHS logo on the clothing. The trust bosses don’t see this new venture as being part of the NHS, which is disgraceful.”

Unison, the largest union at the trust, backed out of the fight before the first strike last month. The union said the trust had agreed to look at “alternative solutions”.

Sustained strikes at other trusts has forced bosses to totally dump plans for wholly-owned subsidiaries.

Unison should join the action at Frimley.


Unite claims a success in long-running Lincs strike

The Unite union has claimed victory in the long-running fight over pay by health visitors in Lincolnshire.

Over 70 health visitors began a month-long strike on 18 November to demand the same pay grade for the whole workforce.

Unite officials suspended the action after it reached a deal that will see the majority of workers on the higher grade 10.

Some 58 health visitors will be fast-tracked onto grade 10.

A further 16 workers on the NHS Agenda for Change pay scales—who were transferred to the local authority in 2017—are still awaiting confirmation.

The new deal includes a one-off lump sum of between £2,000 and £6,000.

Around 13 health visitors have left or are leaving shortly for other jobs.

Unite said this still leaves a “handful of relatively new health visitors” on grade 9.

The union “pledged to explore every avenue to get those still on grade 9 uplifted to grade 10 as soon as possible”.

That has to include calling more strikes unless council bosses guarantee pay justice for all health visitors.


The end of outsourcing after nine days of strikes?

After nine days of strikes at St Mary’s hospital in west London the cleaners, caterers and porters have voted to suspend action planned for this week.

The decision was made unanimously last week by UVW union members.

Previously they had planned another five-day strike.

Tim Orchard, chief executive of Imperial Trust that runs St Mary’s hospital, has finally agreed to enter into negotiations with the union.

These talks will be concluded by 31 January 2020.

It has been agreed that all options are on the table in these negotiations,

That includes bringing in-house workers who are currently outsourced to Sodexo. They are demanding NHS pay and conditions

The union says, “If the deal reached by 31 January is not considered acceptable by our members then they will commence an all out indefinite strike, notice of which has already been given.”


Selloff to a US privatiser

Campaigners are outraged that Chesterfield Royal Hospital is to sell off medical services to a US health company.

It was revealed this week that the trust that runs the hospital is to outsource an “essential medical service” to a private company.

The company is the US-based multinational Steris corporation.

There are reports of workers’ dissatisfaction at the move. There are also fears that staff transferred to Steris may face downgrading and salary reductions.

James Eaden, president of Chesterfield & District trades council, said, “Despite repeated claims by the prime minister and health secretary that there are no plans to sell off parts of the NHS to US private companies, a selloff is taking place right here in Chesterfield.

“Earlier this year the local community and workers at the Royal raised serious objections to the outsourcing of up to

700 non-medical staff to a ‘wholly owned subsidiary’.

“Now the trust is going a step further with the full privatisation of a service area at the Royal.”

The move underlines that the present set-up allows such measures—even before there is any post-Brexit trade deal with the US.


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