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Barts health strike: Low pay, no way!
Paula Mitchell, London Socialist Party
Serco strikers in Barts health trust in east London have led a magnificent fight so far!
Ten days of strike action with big, bold, noisy picket lines, marches, rallies and dancing in the streets, have been backed up with visits to workplaces seeking solidarity and protests at employment agencies.
A thousand people marched through east London to back the heroic strikers on 15 July. The boldness of the picket lines was brought on to the streets with music, singing and chanting.
Bright red Unite banners were joined with union and community banners from across London. Socialist Party placards were held high demanding 'Serco pay up' and 'low pay no way'.
John McDonnell, Labour shadow chancellor, spoke in support and then appeared on the Andrew Marr Show the next day to put Tory chancellor Philip Hammond on the spot about his scandalous remarks that public sector workers are overpaid.
Later, Mile End hospital cleaner Malgorzata Sacewicz and Unite branch secretary Len Hockey appeared on Channel 4 to say Tory millionaire ministers are living on a different planet.
In the first two days of the strike Serco claimed they were doing fine. But seven days in, photos appeared in the press of the chaos in the hospitals.
No serious offer has been made, so a 14-day strike has now begun. But none of this mess is necessary - Serco should just pay up!
This strike is attracting attention from the national press and trade unionists around the country. Why? Because the heroic battle being waged by these low paid workers speaks for us all.
After years of austerity, being told to tighten our belts, work harder, that there is no choice, working class people are saying no more!
The raw anger that was expressed in the Brexit vote began to find a political voice in Corbyn's election manifesto. In the Barts strike it finds an organised expression in militant trade unionism.
These strikers are fighting the super exploitation of migrant workers by standing up and fighting as a class - black, white, Asian, migrant workers on strike together.
One, Ebrima Sonka, said: "We just have to make our mark. We know they're not going to give up easily, they're a big multinational company. Nothing is going to be given to us on a platter, we have to fight for it. It is our right to fight for what we need. In 20 years to come there will be people who say those are the people who fought for what we are enjoying."
Barts strikers are fighting the reality of decades of privatisation, bullying and intensification of work. The same profit-driven policies that led to the catastrophic fire at Grenfell Tower have led to millions of working class people struggling to get by every day.
Solidarity and donations have been pouring in from trade unionists across London and around the country. These include support from the national executive of the PCS civil service union.
The Socialist Party and National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) will keep working hard to spread support for the strike. Also workers should do workplace collections. Waltham Forest Trades Council has set up a support group (contact secretary Linda Taaffe email@example.com).
Socialist Party members attended an international meeting in Barcelona from 17-22 July. We made solidarity videos with health workers and trade unionists from six different European countries who will also raise support and protests in their unions. 400 trade unionists and socialists sent a solidarity photo, and Irish socialist Solidarity MPs also sent a message of support.
The British Airways cabin crew strike and workers preparing to strike at the Bank of England have linked up with the Barts Serco strike. On 27 July, nurses in the Royal College of Nursing will be protesting to scrap the public sector pay cap and Barts Serco strikers should join up with them too.
Workers were also delighted to have support from strikers at the University of London and London School of Economics.
Socialist Party members and the NSSN have long campaigned for the TUC to coordinate action and call a 24-hour general strike to defeat Tory austerity. Come to the NSSN lobby of TUC conference on 10 September at 1pm, Arundel Suite, Holiday Inn, 137 King's Road, Brighton, BN1 2JF.
- To support the strike, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Donations to branch LE/7384L sort code 60-83-01 account number 20344885
- Put pressure on the trust to intervene! Get copies of the protest letter to the CEO of Barts Trust, and to the scrutiny committees of Waltham Forest and Tower Hamlets councils here
- Protest to Serco, send an email to: email@example.com and sign the online petition change.org/p/serco-pay-up
- Let's make sure no agencies supply illegal labour! Protest to Team Support and Selective agencies. Selective: firstname.lastname@example.org 01372 362200 and Team Support: email@example.com 020 8519 6622