Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/304/13749
Fighting For A Living Wage
Low paid workers at Whipps Cross hospital, east London voted for a further three days strike action at a mass meeting on 9 June.
The porters, cleaners and other ancillary workers are employed by multinational ISS Mediclean, after their jobs were privatised out of the NHS.
Their claim for a living wage and parity with NHS working conditions was originally launched across four east London hospitals. Workers at the Homerton, Mile End and St Clements hospitals have already reached a settlement.
Kevin Parslow spoke to Len Hockey, UNISON joint branch secretary after the mass meeting.
THERE'S BEEN an emphatic decision to carry on the campaign and escalate the action to three days. The recommended dates are 18-20 June.
The workers know what the outcome has been at the other hospitals and there has been a slight disappointment that there's not the wide, united front that there was at the beginning of the campaign.
But equally there's a recognition that progress has been made at the other hospitals, sufficient for members to settle. There was no sick pay schemes in those three hospitals and now they've been established, on the back of the unified campaign across the east London NHS.
The mood of the meeting was quite strong, people's confidence has been raised by the successful two-day strike on 28/29 May.
There hasn't been any improvement on the offer of a minimum rate of £5 an hour, which we rejected. We met with the hospital trust last Friday and urged them to use their influence to resolve the dispute. And we've got a meeting scheduled with ISS Mediclean this Thursday, so we'll see what happens there.
A domestic's typical take home pay for a 37.5-hour week is £149.85.
A porter on ISS pay rates takes home £50-£60 a week less than a porter on NHS rates. The porters on the higher rates are solidly supporting the strikes.
"Sometimes the supervisors don't even bother to be on time to sign us out and open the door at the end of our shifts. They're supposed to be there at 8pm but when they're late we miss the bus. Then I get home at 9.40pm, which is ridiculous. So we're having more strikes, three days this time."
"We go to meetings and always hear: 'You're asking too much, we have to re-forecast our budget, reorganise, downsize, privatise'. They forget we are human beings and our needs are real. Today shows we're not just a statistic on the balance sheet."
Len Hockey, on the picket line on 28 May
"We're going to go out again for three days. We're working very hard here yet when you come in late you get sent home. We've got to go on strike to survive."
In The Socialist 14 June 2003: