By Isabel Ringrose
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Barts NHS strikers stand firm for pay justice

If health bosses don't crack, the struggle has to escalate further
Issue 2792
Striker in mask with Unite union placard is flanked by others with vuvuzelas

Strikers at Royal London Hospital are confident and determined (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Barts Health NHS Trust strikers in London are half way through their second week of strikes —and are still confidently declaring, “We have the power.”

Hundreds of workers employed by outsourcer Serco, at the Royal London Hospital, Whipps Cross and St Bart’s are battling for a 15 percent pay rise. They also want the service to be taken away from a privatiser and brought back in house. 

They want NHS benefits such as double pay on weekends and bank holidays rather than having to work for two years before this is applied.

Serco’s contract with Barts ends in April 2023. But unless there is a major policy shift, the workers will be handed on to another profit-hungry corporation on the same terms they have now. 

On Wednesday strikers, who are in the Unite union, picketed their workplaces and then all gathered at St Bart’s hospital in central London. They marched around the hospital chanting, “Enough is enough.”

Passers- by cheered them on, and cars and lorries beeped their horns in support. At the rally, Royal London rep Millicent celebrated the strikers’ determination and thanked supporters for joining the pickets. 

“Look at the weather and conditions we have been standing in, yet we’re speaking our minds and letting the trust know we mean business,” she said. “We are here to send a message. We are not here to joke. We are here for better pay, and terms and conditions. We deserve a pay rise and respect.”

A rep from Whipps Cross added, “When we stand together we won’t be divided. We’re all in this together.”

Workers are angry that they worked through the pandemic, facing the loss of colleagues, only to be treated contemptuously now.  And the rising cost of living is an urgent reason why they need a pay rise.  

Strikers have received support from members of the Tower Hamlets local government Unison union branch and the local Unite community branch, as well as doctors and nurses in the hospitals. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham should visit the pickets,  

If scheduled talks don’t go the way workers want, the strikes have to move to all-out and indefinite action. Unite national leaders should make sure that the whole union knows about the strike, why it matters, and how they can back it.  

Each day workers march around Royal London hospital. A demonstration through east London to the City could also build local support and awareness for the strikers. 

Unfortunately Unison members at the hospitals are working, having been persuaded by their leaders to accept a 3 percent pay deal. If Unison members were also out bosses would be on their knees and unable to run services. That could win a pay rise for all above inflation.

  • Join the picket lines outside from Monday to Saturday, from 5.30am to 11am. They’re held at The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel Road, London E1 1FR, Whipps Cross hospital, Whipps Cross Road, London E11 1NR and St Barts hospital, Little Britain, Smithfield, London EC1A 7BE. Donate to the strike fund. Name: Unity Trust, A/C number: 20344885, sort code: 60-83-01, Reference, Barts Strike.

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