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Victory against outsourcer Mitie at Carlisle hospital

Issue 2753
On the picket line with strike supporters
On the picket line with strike supporters (Pic: Unison Cumbria health branch on Facebook)

A group of low paid but fearless NHS workers in Carlisle have defeated one of the biggest outsourcing firms it was announced on Friday.

Strikes by more than 150 porters, cleaners and catering staff in the Unison and GMB unions at the Cumberland Infirmary have finally won NHS enhanced pay rates for working evenings, nights and weekends.

Contractor Mitie had long claimed it couldn’t afford to meet the unions’ demands for proper unsocial hours payments. It joined a line of previous employers who had also pled poverty.

But, persistent solid strikes have now brought Mitie to heel.

“The mood here is buoyant,” Unison branch secretary Liz Walsh told Socialist Worker.

“Naturally, the finer details are still to be ironed out, but the members are rightly proud of themselves for standing together to fight for what they rightly deserved.

“Our aim was a commitment for the workers to receive unsocial hours payments—and we’ve won that.”


Liz says the strike sets a positive example for the thousands of NHS workers who are facing similar battles up and down Britain.

“My message to others is to support each other—stay strong and ignore the naysayers. Some days it will feel impossible, but don’t give up.”

The Carlisle strike proves it is possible to beat the faceless multinationals that have taken over so much of the non-clinical operations of the health service.

National unions should use this victory to launch a united campaign of action for all others who face similar battles.

  • Campaigners are keeping up the pressure on NHS pay. The government’s 1 percent recommendation was met with derision at a protest outside Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham. The action was supported by the Unison, Unite and RCN unions and attended by local Labour MP Lilian Greenwood. Activists also leafleted health workers in Southend, Essex.

Strikes coming at Blackburn and Burnley hospitals

Biomedical scientists at a Lancashire NHS trust will stop doing night, weekend and late shifts after bosses reneged on an upgrading pay deal.

The action could mean the accident and emergency department at the Royal Blackburn Hospital will close at night and at weekends.

The Unite union said that 21 of its members working for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust were owed back pay of between several hundred pounds to £8,000. Managers had failed to honour an agreement to upgrade them from band 5 to band 6 on the Agenda for Change NHS pay scale.

The back pay issue goes back as far as 2010 for some workers.

Now the biomedical scientists, who analyse patient blood samples at the Royal Blackburn Hospital and the Burnley General Teaching Hospital, will strike from Friday 7 May until Friday 4 June. They voted 85 percent yes to action.

The workers will fulfil day shifts as normal but will strike on night, weekend and evening shifts.


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