Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/449/5355
Fighting for the future of the NHS
Healthworkers and campaigners step up their struggle
ACROSS BRITAIN people are marching in their thousands to defend their NHS. From ward closures to bed cuts, to ripping off patients' relatives for phone calls and parking charges, people have had enough of New Labour's running of the NHS.
Last weekend hundreds of NHS users and staff protested in Trowbridge, hundreds marched in Birmingham. This weekend more huge demonstrations are planned in Cheltenham and other parts of the country.
Next week campaigners in Wakefield and Pontefract health unions are holding a public meeting to step up the campaigning against the likely loss of hundreds of beds through reorganisation by the local Trust.
The plan will also mean less money for staff wages and will inevitably lead to job cuts unless a fight back begins.
Local union leaders Mick Griffiths and Adrian O'Malley told the socialist: "We're determined to join forces with the local community and begin a campaign of resistance and fightback." Elsewhere other health union members are saying 'enough is enough'.
This week, union members protested outside Southport hospital at proposals of the local NHS Trust to make 80 workers redundant. Local UNISON union branch secretary Marie Lloyd told local media that "if necessary we will strike" to stop these job cuts.
And, on 21 July, staff at Whipps Cross Hospital in east London are beginning a rolling programme of strike action against NHS contractor Initial Rentokil for refusing to honour an agreement that was supposed to end unequal rates of pay between staff for doing the same job. Further strikes are due to take place on 27-28 July.
Whipps Cross UNISON branch secretary Len Hockey told the socialist: "The general accumulation of anger and resentment in the NHS was definitely a big factor in getting a 95% vote for action, on an over 50% turnout - especially on the part of the lowest-paid workers.
"Initial Rentokil has not only failed to honour an agreement that we won through industrial action three years ago but they're now embarking on cuts in jobs and hours; so effectively lowering further the pay of already poorly paid workers.
"We will be holding a rally on the first day of the strike to draw in the support of other workers in the hospital and to connect with the anger there is against threats by the local trust to get rid of beds, wards and theatres."
Anger about the state of the NHS is reaching boiling point. Len Hockey's UNISON branch has been to the fore in pressurising the national leadership of UNISON to do something about it. Len said: "We want UNISON to stick by its nationally agreed policy to deliver a national day of action. Where branches can deliver industrial action they should. Other areas can also organise demos and rallies. That is what is desperately needed now."
- To step up the pressure on the union leaders a UNISON health activists conference is being held in Birmingham on 29 July.
Organise for Action
UNISON stewards/activists meeting
Saturday 29 July 1.00pm - 5.00pm
Carrs Lane Church Centre, Birmingham
Send solidarity to Whipps Cross Hospital strikers at UNISON office, Whipps Cross Hospital, Leytonstone, London E11 1NR or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheques payable to UNISON Waltham Forest health branch.
Keep our NHS public
Pontefract Town Hall, Wednesday 26 July, 7.30pm
Speakers: John Lister (Keep our NHS Public campaign); Councillor Dr Jackie Grunsell (Save Huddersfield NHS campaign).
In The Socialist 20 July 2006:
War and occupation
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis
Scottish Socialist Party
Campaign for a New Workers Party