Second show of strength by Medirest workers
For the second time, hundreds of Medirest cleaners at Southampton general hospital came out on strike on 19-21 January to fight for unpaid wages and sick pay. Some workers are owed £3,500.
The strike has created a very strong and determined mood to stand firm. Of 272 workers, 254 are now in the trade union Unison. Workers from seven different nationalities work in the team.
Unison steward Jo Spear said: "It is bringing everyone together. We've put our cards on the table and the Trust are having to take note. We are still angry at what's happening. Not just the money, it's about respect and how we are treated. Recently we were told they had run out of money to vaccinate staff against swine flu and if we wanted it we had to pay for it ourselves!"
On 20 January, 200 Medirest strikers joined hundreds of council workers in a mass demonstration and rally. Over 800 council workers from Unison and Unite held a joint meeting which unanimously rejected council proposals to cut jobs, pay, and terms and conditions. It was the biggest meeting for years and the biggest trade union demonstration in Southampton for decades.
The mood of anger was summed up in the roar of approval for a teaching assistant who raised the need for the unions to follow Greece and France and organise a one-day general strike.
The turnout for the TUC demo on 26 March will be huge. The urgent task will be to ensure this anger is translated into effective strike action capable of halting these cuts.
The fight to stop the closure of the NHS Bitterne Walk-In continues to gain support. Students are continuing to fight the education cuts. In a sign of growing unemployment locally, 5,000 people turned up to a jobs fair at Southampton Airport offering 100 jobs.
Southampton Shop Stewards Network is holding a Fight the Cuts demonstration on Saturday 5 February with support from Southampton trades council, the PCS and other union activists.
Nick Chaffey, Southern region Socialist Party
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