ABOUT 300 workers employed by the private contractor Sodexho at Glasgow Royal Infirmary struck for three days this week over pay. This follows a two-day strike last week. Strikers picketed the hospital enthusiastically and showed they are solidly behind the strike. One of the pickets told Socialist Worker, 'We're sick of low pay and being pushed around by this management. Those on strike are porters, domestics, and catering and security staff. We are an important part of the NHS and we deserve to get a decent rate of pay.'
The workers are demanding the restoration of full NHS terms and conditions, £5 an hour minimum wage, a rise of 5 percent or £1,000, and a 35-hour week. At present workers get as little as £4.20 an hour, with minimal sick pay and no shift allowances. Yet Sodexho's chief executive, Pierre Bellon, has estimated personal wealth of £1.3 billion.
Sodexho is a multinational company which profited from the asylum voucher system. It is involved in private prisons and detention centres. Management cynically planned to try and undermine the strike with scab labour from across Britain. They flew people from Liverpool, Ipswich and other areas. Some were brought from Fife and Gleneagles. They were put up in hotels and paid £10 an hour, well over double the pay of normal workers.
Carolyn Leckie, the branch secretary of North Glasgow Hospitals Unison union, says, 'Despite massive efforts by Sodexho to nullify the strike, they failed miserably. We ensured that many scabs were unsuccessful in entering the hospital. We believe that some who had entered on Tuesday refused to go back on Wednesday. We were approaching 100 percent successful in persuading delivery drivers with non-essential goods not to cross the picket line.'
Send donations, messages of support and cheques (payable to The Strike Hardship Fund), c/o Kathy McLean, Treasurer, Unison North Glasgow Hospitals Branch, Cuthbertson Building, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, G4 0SF.
Phil Billows: still no charges made
HEALTH WORKERS at the Barts and Royal London Hospital Trust in east London are waiting for management to produce an official list of charges against their Unison union branch secretary Phil Billows. Trust bosses suspended Phil from his job over a month ago.
But they have still not finished their 'investigation' into his conduct. Phil has been at the forefront of the fight against the PFI scheme at the hospital trust. Unison members recently re-elected Phil as their branch secretary on a platform of fighting against the PFI scheme.
Disgracefully management have changed the locks on the union office. Section meetings have now taken place throughout the trust. All sections have indicated they would be prepared to strike if Phil is dismissed. Phil has been offered the full backing of the union nationally and across London.
The London region is organising a rally to defend Phil and the union at the end of this month. The union branch is also appealing for financial support and messages of solidarity from other workplaces.
Send donations and messages of support to Union Office, Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, London E1 1BB.