‘Stop the NHS cuts, end low pay’

Healthworkers say…

‘Stop the NHS cuts, end low pay’

Whipps Cross hospital workers protest. Picture Paul Mattsson"LOW PAY no way." "They say cutback, we say fightback." Hundreds of
porters, cleaners and other hospital staff held a lively lunchtime
protest outside Whipps Cross hospital in northeast London on 26 May.

The hospital Trust is considering axing 400 jobs and closing four
wards and two theatres. £15 million could be cut from primary care. The
Trust is paying a ‘turnaround’ manager £1,200 a day to decide where the
axe should fall! Patients, visitors and staff are being asked to write on
a big suggestions board in the hospital to advise the turnaround team.
"Turnaround and f*** off" was the choice advice of some staff.

Private company Rentokil/Initial have cynically jumped on the cuts
bandwagon, announcing they are getting rid of five cleaning jobs and
refusing to implement an agreement to improve the wages and conditions of
ancillary workers.

LEN HOCKEY, a porter and joint branch secretary of the public sector
UNISON at Whipps Cross told the socialist:

"This is what happens when the market and privatisation are introduced
into the NHS.

We had a campaign in 2003 in conjunction with other health branches in
northeast London to end the inequality of treatment of workers who work
for the private sector and to have pay and conditions harmonisation with
NHS staff. Whipps Cross took industrial action and we were successful and
won an agreement.

We had a number of pay rises arising out of that and the full package
was due to be delivered on 1 April. Rentokil/Initial, who have been in
the contract for two years, admitted that it is incumbent on them to
deliver this but they’re dragging their feet and failing to do it – so
we’re mobilising members once more.

Whipps Cross hospital workers protest. Picture Paul MattssonThey’re trying to boost profits off the backs of the lowest-paid
workers, some of whom are on just £5.52 an hour and have no pension or
sick pay rights. Porters and domestics are not the problem, we’re the
ones with the problems. We can’t pay our rent, our council tax and our
energy bills.

We’re looking at the question of industrial action and we’re putting
pressure on the Trust who have given the contract to this company. The
message is clear if they don’t honour this agreement then they should be
dismissed. They’re in here, employing a predominantly female, black
workforce and it’s an outrage that they’re treating people in this
manner. When we don’t do our job properly they’re quick to come down and
threaten us with all sorts. Rentokil/Initial should be sent packing and
the hospital bring us back in-house if necessary.

Waltham Forest save our NHS campaign has been launched, uniting
hospital staff and the local community. We are also linking up with
similar campaigns that are happening all over the country and demanding
that our union name the day for a national demonstration against the
cuts. We will be doing everything we can to stop these attacks and secure
our rights."

See also "We’re seeing the Americanisation of the NHS"