Socialist Worker

Defend our hospitals, defend Phil Billows

Issue No. 1809

ANGRY HEALTH workers demonstrated outside the Royal London Hospital in east London on Friday last week. They were demanding the reinstatement of their Unison union branch secretary, Phil Billows.

Bosses suspended Phil from his job two weeks ago, and security guards marched him off hospital premises in a major assault on trade union organisation. The bosses want to crush union resistance as they push through the biggest hospital PFI privatisation scheme in Britain.

The private consortium leading the bidding is headed by Sodexho-the firm which runs the government's notorious voucher scheme for refugees. Medical records staff, catering workers, porters and other workers joined last Friday's protest.

Phil was joined by catering workers, porters and medical records staff, some of whom had made posters (see picture) saying 'Save Potter's job'-a reference to his nickname, Harry Potter.

'We can all make a difference by fighting to defend Phil,' said a worker. 'Management want to stop us opposing PFI, but we will carry on fighting no matter what they throw at us.'

As Phil says, 'The reason why I've been attacked is for defending workers and for fighting against the privatisation scheme at this hospital. We all have to stand up and fight. We cannot allow management to dictate what happens in our union.'

Deputy convenor of Greater London Unison Candy Udwin spoke of how workers at UCLH in central London had won back the job of their Unison branch chair, Dave Carr, seven years ago by threatening all-out strike action. Phil has the support of Unison's national leadership in his battle for reinstatement.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis apologised for not attending last week's protest, but he sent an important message: 'Unison regards management attacks on its elected officers extremely seriously and will do everything in our power to defend Phil.' Section meetings are currently taking place across the hospital trust. Unison members and other trade unionists should rush messages of support to workers in their fight to defend their union and defeat PFI.

  • Send messages of support to the union office-phone or fax 020 7601 8125.
  • Send messages of condemnation to Paul White, Bart's and Royal London Hospital Trust chief executive-fax 020 7377 7931.

SOME 200 workers at Glasgow Royal Infirmary have begun an official Unison ballot for industrial action against low pay. Porters, domestics, and security and catering staff are fighting against their employers, the giant French multinational firm Sodexho.

The workers earn between just £4.10 and £4.42 an hour. Unison is demanding a minimum of £5 an hour and a return to NHS conditions for all staff. The ballot ends at the end of next week.

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Sat 20 Jul 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1809
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