Striking porters at Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham were given a boost by an online solidarity rally last week.
Around 100 people joined to hear recently elected Unison union general secretary Christina McAnea give her “100 percent backing” to the long running strike.
Trust bosses gave workers a “fire and rehire” ultimatum and the porters are now working on worse terms and conditions.
Shift patterns constantly rotate, meaning staff struggle to keep up with family and caring responsibilities outside of work.
McAnea told the strikers that after more than 20 days of strike they still have the backing of the whole union and that they must “stay strong”.
“It’s unbelievable that we are having these arguments with NHS managers at this time. A time when everyone who works for the health service is under so much pressure,” she said.
“Whenever management has a money-saving wheeze, it’s always our members they come after.”
She went on to say that the union would use all its resources to make sure the porters are not beaten.
McAnea was flanked by Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, shadow international development minister Preet Gill and Labour’s West Midlands mayoral candidate, Liam Byrne.
For Unison to organise such high profile speakers sends a message that the union is serious about its continuing backing for the strikers.
In part, this reflects McAnea’s desire to be seen as a very different general secretary to her predecessor, the strike-fearing Dave Prentis.
McAnea is only too aware that her general secretary vote was impacted by the very large turnout for left winger Paul Holmes.
But it also reflects a degree of employers’ pressure on the union. Up and down the country, NHS health bosses and private contractors are trying to rip up agreements on pay and conditions.
If they are able to get away with the attacks the union will have been bypassed and will be seen as irrelevant.
Unison—a union of 1.3 million members—should be able to deliver victory.
Strikers must now push Unison’s leaders hard to make sure that hard hitting strikes continue, and that their fight spreads across the union.