Outsourced security workers at Great Ormond Street Hospital (Gosh) marked six weeks of strikes with a rally on Thursday. Workers are demanding they are brought in-house and receive the same terms and conditions as other NHS workers. At present they are employed by Carlisle Support Services.
Bosses have attacked the strike from the start, taking the workers and their UVW union to court to try and stop them from picketing effectively and campaigning outside the hospital. But this hasn’t stopped workers, who won a partial retreat from the management and have used innovative tactics to make their pickets and rallies as vibrant as possible.
Security worker Erica, who is now seven months pregnant, told Socialist Worker, “We talk to parents going to the hospital and get them to sign petitions in support of us. It’s sad we have to do this at all.
“When Gosh took us to court, I’ll admit, I thought it was the end. But we rallied around and I felt a little more hope. Then I got really angry, Gosh spent thousands of pounds on lawyers to fight against us in the High Court. That’s money which they could have used to bring us in-house and give us the proper terms and conditions.”
Just this week cleaners at Gosh have been brought in-house after they threatened to strike. They will receive the same term and conditions as other NHS workers from 1 April.
Erica said that this proves the hospital has the ability to bring security guards in house as well. “They accepted what the cleaners demanded because they didn’t want to see a bigger strike,” she said.
Other strikers angrily denounced the bosses’ strategy. Security guard Mimi, told the crowd, “I’ve discovered that Gosh is trying to divide workers in order to rule. I discovered a dark side of Gosh. When we ask for our rights they just ignore us.”
Striker Peter noted how directly-employed staff at the hospital are treated differently to the outsourced ones. “We are forced to change in the toilets because we have no changing rooms or locker rooms like NHS workers do. We feel like third-class citizens in this building. This is not a new feeling, we’ve experienced discrimination for years,” he said.
UVW makes the point that those affected by the “outsourcing arrangement are predominantly Black, brown and migrant” and says this amounts to “race discrimination”.
Many of the speakers noted how privatising the security guards opens up other workers for outsourcing. Nurse Steph told Socialist Worker that she was supporting the security guards because “All NHS workers should be treated the same and be given respect. Once we start outsourcing it opens up for more privatisation across the board.
“I also think it’s great to see workers fight back—these strikes should be an inspiration to all health workers,” she said.
The rally heard speakers from the UCU union and trades councils. It was also joined by Labour MPs John McDonnell and Apsana Begum. Begum told the crowd, “It’s shameful that they have tried to stop strikers speaking out. We need to see more of what you’ve been doing. Essential workers deserve a lot better than this.”
Because of the injunction, workers had to find loopholes when making any noise outside Gosh. They found that singing wasn’t mentioned in the injunction and so sung strike songs for the second half of the rally.
Erica told Socialist Worker that the fight is not over. “We’ll be striking every Friday in April” she said.
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