By Gabby Thorpe
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Strikes win victory over outsourcing at St Mary’s hospital

This article is over 4 years, 5 months old
Issue 2690
A campaign of militant strikes was successful
A campaign of militant strikes was successful (Pic: UVW)

Over 200 outsourced porters, cleaners and caterers at St Mary’s hospital in Paddington, west London have won their fight to be brought in-house.

The members of the United Voices of the World (UVW) union struck for nine days in October and November last year.

They held sit-ins and protested at a meeting of hospital bosses to get their demands heard. 

And they voted overwhelmingly for an indefinite strike starting in February if a deal was not reached.

UVW announced on Thursday that hospital bosses at the Imperial Trust will terminate the contract with outsourcers Sodexo and employ the workers as NHS staff from 1 April.

Furthermore the trust will terminate outsourcing contracts at five hospitals that it runs. Workers employed by the outsourcers will all receive the same rights as those similarly employed by the NHS.

The workers—mainly migrants—were some of the lowest paid in London. They received only £8.21 an hour. Sodexo offered the strikers the London Living Wage of £10.55 an hour last November.

But the offer still meant that the workers were earning less than the lowest paid workers employed by the NHS. And the Living Wage Foundation set the London Living Wage to £10.75 in November.

Striker Loretta said, “In November our strikes forced them to pay us the London Living Wage. It meant we got several hundred pounds extra a month.”

She added, “It wasn’t enough. We thought, ‘Why shouldn’t we be paid like all other NHS workers?’ and we kept on fighting for full equality.

A sit-in during the battle
A sit-in during the battle (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Strikers were fighting for better terms and conditions, including improved sick pay. Previously they received only two days of sick pay, forcing many of them to come into work while sick.

Many of the staff worked on wards, potentially endangering patients.

Now, with sick pay rights, Loretta says, “I won’t have to choose between paying my rent and protecting my health.”

Petros Elia, UVW organiser said that the strike “is also a victory for patients.”

He said, “Study after study shows hospitals that outsource their ancillary staff have higher incidences of infections—including MRSA.

“Cutting out profit-hungry contractors will allow the Trust to put patient health and safety first.”

The victory comes at the same time as security guards at St George’s University in south London are fighting to force bosses to put an end to their contract with outsourcers Noonan.

The success at St Mary’s is a massive step forward for workers’rights and migrants’ rights. And it shows what is possible when workers organise in a militant way to win the conditions that they deserve.

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