Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/509/3391
Support strikers at Northern General Hospital
ELEVEN BULK stores staff at Sheffield's Northern General Hospital (NGH), all Unison members, have now taken ten days of strike action against management plans to impose 20% wage cuts through axing their bonus scheme.
Julie Thickett, spokesperson for the strikers, explains: "25 years ago I signed a contract of employment which stated in its terms and conditions 'hourly rate plus bonus'.
Since then the hospital and the workload has grown massively. And in January the new Hadfield wing opened with an extra six wards to supply. That month, the sterile supplies department was split away from our directorate and us staff in bulk stores were told that we would lose our bonus.
The bonus makes up around £3,000 a year of our wages - a pay cut of 20%! Despite our overtime ban, the Trust refused negotiations, so as a last resort we balloted for strike action. It took three one-day strikes and a two-day strike to force management into talks.
But then they justified the pay cuts to meet their 7% budget savings over two years and the need for 'value for money for patients'.They even suggested we work a few hours unpaid overtime every week!
We agreed to a review of the service as our workload has increased and we are understaffed. But the time and motion consultant has taken ages and rationalisation proposals could even result in job losses, so we went ahead with a one week strike.
We are only a small group of workers but we are solidly together in the belief we are being treated unfairly. The strike move was not taken lightly but support from other trade unions and organisations has been tremendously uplifting.
All through NGH, staff know it could be their departments next. Some wards refused to collect their supplies because they won't 'cross' the picket lines, even though pickets are at the main gates. Such solidarity, plus hot food and drinks on freezing mornings, keeps our spirits up. A heartfelt thanks to you all."
Julie and another striker Linda spoke at a Socialist Party meeting which jointly organised two days of street petitioning and bucket collections raising £400 for the strike fund. If talks don't achieve a breakthrough, the stores staff are threatening an all-out strike.
In The Socialist 8 November 2007:
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaign