Royal London Unite workers striking in 2022 to be brought back in house. Photo: Paul Mattsson
Royal London Unite workers striking in 2022 to be brought back in house. Photo: Paul Mattsson

NHS workers in Unite the Union at four London NHS Trusts are taking strike action over safe staffing and pay. Over 2,800 workers will be on strike, including cleaners, caterers, porters, nurses and pathologists. The workers are employed at Barts Health Trust; Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Trust; East London Foundation Trust; and Guys and St Thomas’. 

  • The Barts strike will coordinate with junior doctors and consultants.
  • Barts workers will be on strike 13-14 September and 16-22 September
  • Barking, Havering and Redbridge workers will strike 13-14 September
  • Guys and St Thomas’ workers on 13-14 September
  • East London Foundation Trust workers will strike on 13 September 

Barts workers: A proud record and a massive victory – but we have to keep on fighting!

Len Hockey, Unite Barts Health branch secretary

In 2022, workers at Barts Health Trust won a massive historic victory through bold strike action, being brought back in-house on NHS pay and conditions after a succession of private sector employers, including Serco.

Now the same workers have voted by 95% for strike action against the government’s imposed real-terms pay cut for health workers. Our members, across five east London hospitals, are also demanding the £1,655 lump-sum payment awarded to other NHS staff for 2022-23 but which was withheld from some of the former Serco workers when they were brought back into the NHS.

We issue a warning to Trust management: our members have a long and proud record of fighting on pay and defending services. We will continue fighting for what we deserve!

We resoundingly demonstrated last year that when workers are provided leadership, are conscious of their strength and mobilised in action, then they are an unstoppable force for changing their pay and conditions.

The victory in 2022 was not pre-ordained, but was rooted in the combined factors of the raw experiences of exploitation under the capitalist policy of outsourcing on the one hand, and on the other, the implacable will and confidence of the local collective trade union leadership to campaign.

How the victory was won

Excerpt from ‘Massive victory for Barts hospital workers: Strike wins pay rise and an end to outsourcing’, first published on 9 March 2022

Rob Williams, Socialist Party industrial organiser

Unite members in Barts NHS Trust in east London, the largest in the country, are celebrating a fantastic victory after two weeks of strikes. We send our congratulations to Unite and its members and reps, including the union’s branch secretary Len Hockey, a longstanding member of the Socialist Party.

The low-paid workers, porters, cleaners, catering staff and security, are employed across five east London hospitals, including Whipps Cross, Royal London and St Bartholomew’s, by notorious outsourcing giant Serco, with an estimated turnover of nearly £4 billion.

The Barts workers rejected the miserly 1% pay offer from Serco last year, but always placed the issue of ditching the parasitic privateer and being brought in-house on NHS contracts central to the dispute. Just by winning their strike ballot, the bosses were forced to up their pay offer to 3%, mirroring that offered to workers directly employed by the NHS. But because they are outsourced, the real gap is far wider, at up to 15%.

Unite rejected this offer when real inflation was rising and moved to an industrial action ballot, which was won with a 97.7% yes vote.

Workers took to the picket lines at the three hospitals in the first two weeks of February. There were huge mobilisations, with well over 100 at the hospitals, often singing and dancing. They organised strike demonstrations outside each hospital of hundreds of striking workers and their supporters across the labour and trade union movement. Management was in no doubt that the action would continue and escalate unless an acceptable agreement was reached.

That improved offer includes the 3% pay rise backdated to last April, plus a one-off payment of £400. But crucially, it also confirms that the workers will be brought back in-house on 1 May 2023. The workers have insisted that this is done on NHS pay, terms and conditions.

As well as securing a wage rise, they have pushed back against the privatisation agenda that has been used to attack the livelihoods of workers in the NHS and elsewhere in the public sector for decades. Barts strikers have shown that action wins.