First round of solid action ends – all out again on 28 February

Unite members are set to take more strike action over pay and conditions. Photo: Paul Mattsson

Unite members are set to take more strike action over pay and conditions. Photo: Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

London Socialist Party

Following two weeks of solid strike action by 600 workers with big, bold and angry picket lines, the Barts hospital strike in east London has ended – for now.

The workers, who provide essential services as cleaners, porters, patient food catering workers, reception staff, and security guards, work in the NHS on a contract run by private company Serco. As well as fighting for an improved pay rise, 15% for all NHS workers, they are fighting to bring the contract back in-house.

Serco has given the NHS Trust 18 months’ notice that it will be ending its contract in April 2023. It has made huge profits over the years by driving down the conditions of outsourced staff and keeping pay low.

Serco Group PLC had a turnover of £3.9 billion last year but the multinational has eventually offered just a 3% pay ‘hike’. The staff, which include cleaners and porters, are paid up to 15% less than directly employed NHS staff.

Picket lines have been huge, and strikers have been attending rallies at each hospital to bring the pickets together. The latest was a tremendous rally at Barts hospital on 9 February. The strike action has also encouraged more workers across the hospitals to get organised, and new reps have come forward.

Socialist Party members have been down to support the pickets every day and encouraged other trade unionists and campaigners to come. Other staff, patients and passers-by have all given enthusiastic support to the fight.

We say: bring services back in-house now! The Barts’ bosses should be held accountable for the disaster which privatisation has meant for the staff.

The Barts workers will start a further fortnight of action on 28 February. Socialist Party members in East London will continue to stand with them on the picket lines.