Barts strikers at Canary Wharf HQ. Photo: James Ivens
Barts strikers at Canary Wharf HQ. Photo: James Ivens

Domestics, porters, catering staff and other ‘soft facilities management’ workers at Barts NHS Trust, members of Unite, are embarking on their seventh tranche of strike action from 19-21 February. While there has been progress in talks on some of their demands, there is still more to be won.

The workers are demanding that they are all paid the Covid bonus that was paid to NHS staff last year. This group of workers successfully fought to be brought back into the NHS in 2023, but due to the bosses’ decision to stagger their entry, scandalously some of the workers were paid the bonus and others weren’t.

Barts workers have linked up with workers in Dudley and East Kent striking for the same thing.

Addressing a strike rally outside the Trust HQ in luxurious Canary Wharf, Unite branch secretary Len Hockey said:

“We were outsourced for 25 years, treated as profit fodder to pay dividends to shareholders, and so that the trust can make savings out of our worsening terms and conditions.

“The trust said ‘We are doing the right thing’ when they took us in-house. That implies they’d done the wrong thing for years. But taking us back in-house and then failing to pay the lump sum is unacceptable. We are ‘part of the Barts family’ we are told. Well, I would say we are in an abusive relationship until they make this payment!

“They say they have no authority to pay us. That their bosses in the Integrated Care Board and NHS England have to sign off for them to pay it. So, even if they had the money, they can’t pay it. And if they did pay it, other workers would want it as well.

“Too bloody right! Everyone who worked through the pandemic should receive that payment! And they say: ‘Then other trusts would be under pressure.’ Too bad!

“But now our sisters and brothers in Kent, 300 members striking – their trust has done a U-turn and is giving the lump sum. That blows the argument that trusts do not have discretion completely out of the water. You need to have the political will and the moral compunction to do it!”