Barts strikers marching in east London. Photo: Hugo Pierre
Barts strikers marching in east London. Photo: Hugo Pierre

James Ivens, London Socialist Party

The courageous strike at Barts NHS Trust has inspired more workers to join the fight. Another boisterous Unite the Union rally outside the Royal London Hospital showed the action picking up momentum.

Dozens of pharmacists walked out during the last round of action on 4-10 December. This is a first! They have a crucial function in hospital care and are fed up with unsafe staffing levels. Pharmacists are now working towards electing reps.

Pathologists and haematologists were also out in force at the 6 December rally. Their work is indispensable to diagnosis. On top of its own five hospitals, Barts supplies these services to several others across east and southeast London. 

The march around the Royal London in Whitechapel stopped off at pathology HQ with a workers’ petition, chanting and blasting an air horn. They compelled a manager to come down, hear from the rep and receive the petition.

Emergency Department nurses have suffered a new injury from the trust. Management has barred all further requests for leave to the end of the year. Entitlement will not roll over to 2024. A striking nurse told us that means some of them losing 70 to 90 hours of leave. What a way to deal with a staff morale and retention crisis!

Meanwhile, the ‘soft facilities management’ staff – caterers, cleaners, domestics, porters and the like – continue their action on pay. Bosses still refuse to honour the lump sum paid to NHS staff for those sections who were restored from outsourced to direct NHS employment ‘too late’ for it.

But strike action forced the trust to bring them back in-house. Strike action can win more on pay and conditions across all different parts of the workforce. 

The next round of action involves Synergy staff from 18-26 December, and Trust staff 18-22 and 25-26 December.

Where workers get a fighting lead – such as that from Unite Barts branch secretary and Socialist Party member Len Hockey – they will fight, and they can win.