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18 October 2017

North London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses

Paul Kershaw, North London Socialist Party

Porters and domestics - members of the GMB union - at the North Middlesex hospital, facing the threat of redundancies and pay cuts, organised a spirited protest with a barbecue outside the hospital on 12 October.

Following the takeover of their service by profit-hungry contractor Medirest (healthcare division of the Compass group) in June, the firm's 'efficiency measures' include reducing the number of porters from 71 to 61 and cutting wages by 1,000 a year.

Workers look to the recent example of the ground-breaking strikes of porters, domestics and other low paid workers at the Barts hospital trust, and they have been joining the union.

They point out that patients will be left with fewer porters to assist them: "We know that patients can wait a long time for a porter when we are busy, but how can reducing our numbers say that this will not happen in the future? I have three young children and cannot afford to lose 1,000 a year from my wages," said a union member.

Who can? But, the corporate giant now seeks to make more profit by reducing pay and workers' much-needed breaks.

Protesters gave an indication of the massive support that hospital workers would get for industrial action in defence of jobs, conditions and services.

Local councils should call in the management of the crisis-ridden health trust to question their failure to ensure that Medirest behaves responsibly. Moreover, all outsourced services should be brought back in-house with workers receiving decent pay and full workplace benefits.

The North Middlesex chief executive, Libby McManus, was forced to resign in September following reported concerns over poor performance.

Local councils and the labour movement must demand that the trust gets a grip and staffs services properly through the winter.

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