Workers halt health sell-off

ANCILLARY WORKERS at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield reacted angrily when they heard the Trust board were going to discuss a paper recommending market testing catering, domestic, portering, security and transport services.

Adrian O’Malley and Mick Griffiths, Wakefield and Pontefract Hospitals UNISON

With less than 24 hours notice, UNISON members organised a petition signed by 1,150 hospital staff and distributed leaflets opposing privatisation. At a 200-strong lobby of the Trust board meeting. TV cameras showed hospital staff with placards attacking boardroom fat cats who want the lowest-paid staff to bail out the financial crisis of the Trust.

The turn out and anger on display visibly shocked the directors who had convinced themselves that the union was unrepresentative and that the workers would meekly accept privatisation.

Adrian O’Malley, UNISON branch chair, was allowed to speak at the meeting backed up by workers who had walked out of work to join the lobby.

Reflecting the mood within the hospital, the board deferred a decision for another month to give the union time to bring alternatives to market testing. For the directors to even defer a decision is a major achievement especially as some senior directors argued for privatisation during the meeting.

UNISON’s position is clear. We will not co-operate with the tendering procedure. If the Trust insist on market testing we will ballot for strike action, as was unanimously agreed by the lobbying workers.

We are NHS workers employed on NHS terms and conditions and want the private contractors Initial kicked out of our sister hospital in Pontefract. UNISON members in Wakefield will fight to retain the jobs. Management have been warned.

The morning following the lobby Adrian was interviewed by local radio. The Trust director who argued most strongly in favour of tendering was forced to eat humble pie as he proclaimed that the decision to defer was a good one.

Many new union members were recruited to UNISON and the branch morale has been boosted with many new activists becoming organised. Management have also now offered to end the Initial contract at Pontefract.

The Socialist demands:

+Bring the NHS into public ownership. Cleaning, catering and other services should not be run for profit.
+Remove the trusts, abolish the internal market. Representatives of NHS workers, trade unions and health service users should make the decisions about how the NHS is run and what its priorities are. +Nationalise the drug companies and medical equipment suppliers under working-class control and management to end the massive subsidy these parasites drain from the NHS.
+A socialist programme to eliminate poverty and inequality – the biggest killer and cause of ill-health.