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Vampires Feeding Off The NHS

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Low paid health workers are fighting back against private contractors in the NHS. Socialist Worker exposes these giant corporations who make their profit from paying poverty wages
Issue 1858

‘THEY MAKE profits on our backs,’ ‘Private companies are only in it to make a fast buck,’ ‘The only thing they care about are the shareholders, not us or the patients.’ These were just some of the angry comments by low paid strikers from Scunthorpe, Grimsby and Goole hospitals as they descended on the headquarters of their bosses Carillion last week.

The workers are part of a gathering revolt against low pay and exploitation by the private firms in the NHS. In Bolton and in east London workers have also gone into battle, against their bosses ISS Mediclean.

Carillion (‘Crapillion’ say workers) and ISS Mediclean (‘Medimean’) are typical of the corporations that have taken over large chunks of the NHS under New Labour. These firms are not small, cowboy outfits. They are giant multinational corporations, with their tentacles spread across the globe. These firms have grasped the opportunity to add to their vast fortunes by leeching off the NHS.

They do so by running down services, condemning patients to dirty wards and inadequate care, and by screwing the workers who do the essential jobs in our hospitals.

They pay workers as little as they can get away with, give them little or few benefits or pension rights and then force them to work harder than ever. Now these workers are demanding justice. They want a living wage and they want dignity and respect.

As one Grimsby striker put it, ‘It’s not only about the money. I want to be treated as a person.’


ISS Mediclean

The ISS group made £200 million last year.

Fat cats
Directors get over 27 times the wage of the average worker and 50 times more than a cleaner.

The average pay for its workers is just £10, 437 a year. Royal Bolton Hospital cleaners get just £4.47 an hour and porters £4.61. Whipps Cross domestics are paid as little as £4.20 an hour.

Owned by
Subsidiary of giant Danish-owned ISS group – one of the ten biggest employers in Europe.


  • Operates in 38 countries – including Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, Brazil, Australia, Argentina and Brazil. Has 16 different subsidiaries in Britain.
  • Made £5.2 million profits last year.
  • One of the four largest contractors in the NHS and one of the biggest players in PFI schemes.
  • Runs the PFI Hairmyres and Stonehouse Hospital in Scotland. A report found ‘staff shortages led to filthy wards and toilets. Water leaks from the roof and seeps up from the sewers. There are fears 40 percent of staff records have been lost.’
  • Part of the consortium which runs the disastrous PFI scheme at Worcester Royal Infirmary, which led to the running down of Kidderminster Hospital.
  • One porter reports from Worcester, ‘A young lad who works for the ISS security was recently stabbed while doing his job. He had no back-up and was stabbed for £4.87 an hour. No one from ISS has been to see him.’
  • At the centre of last year’s investigation by the Sunday Mirror into conditions at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Conditions were so bad seriously ill patients were forced to clean their own rooms, rubbish was strewn in corridors and vomit left on the floors.


£50.2 million – Carillion’s profits last year – up 11 percent on the previous year’s profits. £4.25 – is what many cleaners employed by Carillion at Scunthorpe General Hospital earn an hour.

  • Has 16 subsidiary businesses including Carillion Building, Carillion Rail, Carillion Private Finance and various consultancy agencies.
  • Carillion Rail is one of the four giants running rail maintenance so disastrously on the privatised railway. Second in size to Jarvis.
  • Created from the break-up of Tarmac in 1999, which two years previously backed the Tories in the general election.
  • One of 38 companies splashed on the front of the Daily Mail in the 1997 election arguing that a Labour government would wreck the economy.
  • Government adviser on PFI and funds the New Local Government Network – a group of top bosses, endorsed by Blair, which pushes a ‘modernising agenda’ for local government.
  • Biggest PFI firm in Britain, which controls over 30 percent of all PFI contracts worth over £450 million.
  • Boasts it is a ‘market leader’ in private finance because it ‘rationalises costs’ – ie makes cuts and slashes staff.
  • Part of consortium (with Group 4/Falck and BT) that won the biggest ever PFI contract to build the government’s GCHQ spy centre – the ‘Doughnut’. Over 30 years, the consortium will rake in £800 million.
  • Led the Hospital Company consortium in charge of disastrous £150 million PFI hospital in Swindon. The hospital turned away patients one month after it opened due to lack of beds. Made a massive £10.7 million at Fazakerley Prison in Liverpool (along with Group 4) through a ‘refinancing’ scam condemned by the government’s Audit Commission.
  • Closed its final salary pension scheme to new members earlier this year. This will mean reduced pensions for workers in the future.
  • Finance director John Girling got a 29 percent rise to £390,000 last year.
  • Construction boss Roger Robinson got a 21 percent rise to £400,000.
  • 100 directors stand to share out £17 million in bonuses this year.

More vultures

Compass Medirest

  • Part of the giant Compass Group – the world’s largest food service company.
  • Runs catering, cleaning and portering contracts across NHS hospitals in Britain.
  • Directors named last week as the best paid in Britain. Each director got a massive £10 million in salaries, shares and bonuses last year.
  • Average annual pay of directors is over 77 times that of workers, who get just £9,090.


  • Giant French-owned multinational – the world’s second largest contract food company after Compass.
  • Has catering contracts in NHS hospitals across Britain and is a big player in PFI schemes, being part of several PFI consortiums.
  • Has catering contracts in colleges around Britain and ran the government’s demeaning voucher system for refugees.
  • Made a profit of £36.6 million last year. The average yearly wage of its workers is just £8,810.


  • Started out in pest control but now runs cleaning, catering, security, transport and other services. One of the biggest contracting groups in the world.
  • Subsidiary, Initial Hospital Services, made £2.3 million last year.
  • Its workers get a miserly £6,673 a year on average.

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