Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/453/5423
Fighting back against attacks on NHS
THIRTY THOUSAND people marched against NHS cuts in Cornwall over August Bank Holiday in the small town of Hayle. It was the biggest demo so far in defence of the NHS.
The National Health Service is clearly still a major political issue.
More and more cuts are threatened and more and more people are fighting back.
Many protesters can see the advantages of linking together the growing number of locally based protests. The unions should name the day for a national weekday demonstration and industrial action against the attacks on NHS jobs and services.
Privatisation threatens many services as well. This is a licence to print money for the big business firms concerned.
But for workers in the health sphere, privatisation can have a disastrous impact on their pay and conditions as portering and cleaning staff at Whipps Cross hospital in east London have found to their cost.
But as UNISON branch secretary LEN HOCKEY reports, workers are striking back!
"LOW-PAID ancillary workers at Whipps Cross hospital were on strike for three more days recently over their privatised employers' (Initial Hospital Services) failure to pay back wages owed to workers who were once directly employed by the NHS. We plan five more days on strike if the bosses don't pay up.
Last week the hospital trust and Initial tried to settle the dispute, under pressure from the continual industrial action. They moved to give back pay on the basic rate of Agenda for Change, but then tried to withhold £800 of what was formerly known as London weighting, the higher cost area supplement!
We had a mass meeting to discuss the offer. Previously, the union had told the employers that we expected them to improve on the offer. We were open to negotiation if they were realistic over how much money they put on the table. But they haven't moved and the effect has been to harden the mood of the workforce.
Since then there have been moves to bring in the arbitration service ACAS, again reflecting the pressure on the employers.
So the campaign continues. We recently lobbied Initial's headquarters, targeting their chief executive who earns the measly sum of £2.2 million a year! We contrasted his lifestyle to that of one of our domestics on £5.52 an hour with little or no sick pay and inferior holidays.
The company and the trust are particularly sensitive to publicity and they were looking for a resolution to the situation before this strike. So now we're putting our foot firmly on the pedal.
The company threatened us with an injunction if we went ahead with a protest. We're obviously hitting all the right buttons so we're going to carry on and hopefully squeeze out of them the money that we're due."
Please send messages of support to: Len Hockey, UNISON office, Whipps Cross Hospital, Whipps Cross Road, London E11 1NR.
Donations: c/o Chris Remington, Head of Health and HE, UNISON, First Floor, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1 3LS. Cheques payable to UNISON, mark for "Whipps Cross Initial Strikers".
Workers speak out
OVER 200 workers and supporters were on the picket lines at Whipps Cross. Practically every worker volunteered for picket duty. Some spoke to the socialist.
THEY DIDN'T offer us enough money. If we hold out a bit longer, I hope we can put pressure on them and they will cough up the money we're owed. The strike days so far have had some effect. They suddenly found some money from somewhere.
IT'S NOT an offer is it really? They're just offering us some of the money that they already owe us. They're offering us our own money. We're carrying on - we want all the money.
Bob Edwards, Porter
IT'S DISGUSTING what they've offered us and this can't go on. We're not only out here for a wage rise but because of the health cuts as well. Everybody's sick of it in there and it's got to end. We're determined now we've got to carry on.
THEY'RE SAYING you can have £600 or £500 of your money but you're not getting the rest. It's a joke. If they don't budge we've got another five days of strike action booked in.
IF I was a builder and I gave you a bill for £1,400 and you only gave me £600 I'd be taking your windows out. That's basically what the trust and Initial are doing. Offering me half of my own money. I say don't piss on my shoes and tell me it's raining.
In The Socialist 7 September 2006:
Socialist Party campaigns
War and terrorism
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news