A GROUP of workers who could bring the NHS to a halt in three days have begun balloting for strikes to oppose privatisation.
Members of the Unison union at NHS Logistics, the not for profit agency that supplies the NHS, are determined to block a planned sell-off.
The privatisation scheme is far wider than originally suggested. It will now also include large parts of the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency – which manages about 3,000 contracts and handles a budget of £7 billion.
In total, the deal for NHS Logistics and the parts of the Purchasing and Supply Agency to be sold off is thought to be worth as much as £4 billion.
A German-US consortium DHL-Novation is the front runner in the bid to grab control of NHS Logistics.
But New Labour’s plans face a major challenge in the shape of an angry and determined workforce.
Because of their crucial role, the NHS Logistics workers – based at five depots around the country – are among the most powerful to fight to keep the NHS public.
“We’re starting to be seen as a vanguard against privatisation,” said Dean Lane, assistant Unison branch secretary at the Maidstone depot in Kent.
Dean added that there was a strong mood for action at Kent. Workers at other depots contacted by Socialist Worker gave a similar message.
Action would probably take the form of a one day national strike followed by a series of local strikes in different depots.
The workers – at Maidstone, Alfreton, Runcorn, Normanton and Bury St Edmunds – deserve support from the wider movement.
Send messages and donations care of NHS Logistics Unison, St Barnabus Close, Allington, Maidstone, Kent, ME16 0LW. Make cheques payable to “Unison – NHS Logistics Dispute”.
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