Porters at Ninewells and Royal Victoria hospitals in Dundee have raised serious concerns about how bosses are dealing with their indefinite strike.
Some 120 porters are in their sixth week of all-out strike.
The Unite union members are demanding bosses put them on the band 2 pay grade, the same as most other porters in Scotland’s health service. They are currently on band 1.
NHS Tayside bosses are desperately trying to run a scabbing operation.
But strikers told Socialist Worker they think that management’s “volunteers” are not subject to the same stringent health and safety procedures they undergo.
“You don’t know what kind of waste you could be picking up,” Jeff told Socialist Worker.
Lucas added, “It can be like Russian roulette picking up the clinical waste. You don’t know if there will be needles in there or not.”
Sixteen of the strikers deal directly with clinical waste and are on band 2 already.
But they are solidly behind the strike and won’t go back until everyone wins.
Jeff said the scabs were not aware they would need to have certain vaccinations to do their work.
They told strikers that bosses had not mentioned it.
Strikers are also worried that those transporting clinical waste are not following correct procedures and could be spreading infection.
Pictures have emerged of overflowing bins with orange bags full of clinical waste.
Others show linen trolleys “stinking of urine” sitting in corridors outside operating theatres and patient wards.
NHS Tayside human resources director George Doherty claimed the pictures are faked.
Kris said Doherty “is a clown”.
He said, “If it wasn’t for the porters the hospital would come to standstill,”
Porters say background checks on the scabs, who deal with vulnerable patients, can’t be getting done.
Doherty said, “All our NHS Tayside volunteers have undergone Standard Disclosure.” But strikers say this is not the normal procedure for certain roles.
The Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme is an enhanced background check for those who have regular contact with children and protected adults.
Many of the porters are PVG-checked.
“It’s not just a couple of days or weeks to get these checks done,” said Kris.
The porters feel stronger as the dispute has gone on.
Nigel told Socialist Worker, “We’ve grown in confidence.
“People are getting switched on and seeing what these bastards at the top are all about.”
And strikers have made links with the all-out strike of Glasgow homelessness caseworkers. Nigel said, “You start to realise that your struggle is everybody’s struggle.”
Workers’ names have been changed
The porters’ dispute has put the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the spotlight.
Health is a devolved power in Scotland and the SNP government could intervene.
Shona Robison is the Scottish health minister and the local MSP.
Kris said she “has done absolutely nothing” and added that new Dundee West MP Chris Law “wasn’t interested”.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon met strikers at the STUC conference last month. Nigel said, “It was like she didn’t want to know.”
But pressure is growing—bosses were meeting the union as Socialist Worker went to press.
Reballots have opened the way to bigger struggle