Socialist Worker

Protest says black lives matter at work

by Ben WIndsor
Issue No. 2709

United protest on Monday

United protest on Monday (Pic: Ben Windsor)


Over 50 people protested against institutional racism outside St George’s hospital and medical school in Tooting, south London, on Monday.

The event was jointly called by the GMB, UVW and Unite union branches at the site, with the support of the Wandsworth Stand Up To Racism group.

St George’s is one of the biggest workplaces in London, employing 9,000 people.

Nearly half of them are black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workers. Many face low pay and ­discrimination in society and at work.

So Monday’s protest was a significant step forward.

It is no accident that the UVW and GMB played a role as they have both led militant strikes at St George's in recent months and recruited new members as a result.

At St George’s the GMB and UVW represent many of the outsourced cleaners and security guards who are ­overwhelmingly BAME, and have been campaigning for parity with NHS staff.

Pandemic

The pandemic has brought things to a head.

Besides the long running issues about discrimination over pay, conditions, disciplinaries and promotion, coronavirus has starkly illustrated inequalities over the provision of PPE.

Although many health workers have been struggling to get hold of it, those ­protesting on Monday felt they have been at the back of the queue. Sadly at least three cleaners employed by Mitie at St George’s have died from the virus.

A sign of the strength of the feeling over the issue was an extraordinary letter sent by the CEO last month to all staff.

She wrote about the importance of challenging racism in the Trust, committing herself to take it seriously.

It went way beyond the usual management ­platitudes, so it represents a useful opening.

  • More than five million people, including 1.3 million key workers, are paid less than the Real Living Wage of £10.75 an hour, research revealed on Monday. 

The sectors with the most low-paid, insecure ­workers were wholesale, retail, and repair of vehicles, with 830,000 employees—plus health and social work with 640,000.

The study came from the Living Wage Foundation and New Economics Foundation.


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