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Bolton hospital workers strike as subsidiary company refuses NHS pay rates
Steve North, Salford Socialist Party
Cleaners, catering staff and porters at Royal Bolton Hospital struck for 48 hours on 11 and 12 October over pay. The strikers are organised by public service union Unison.
Their employer, iFM Bolton, is a 'wholly owned subsidiary' of Royal Bolton NHS Foundation Trust. It refuses to pay the recent NHS wage increase - because its workers are technically not employed by the NHS.
The recent three-year NHS pay deal, while not good enough, does mean that workers in the health service's 'Agenda for Change' pay system will earn a minimum of £9.89 an hour by 2020.
Despite signing an agreement in 2017 stating it would implement any nationally agreed NHS pay rates, the most iFM has been willing to offer is £8.75 an hour. Even that was only after the workforce challenged management.
Socialist Party members attended picket lines on the Thursday and Friday morning. We spoke to a determined workforce, which rightly insists it should be treated the same as any other NHS workers.
On Friday lunchtime, pickets and supporters battled heavy rain in Bolton to hold a strike rally. The highlight was a message of support from Joanne, a Unison member in Wigan who was part of the recent victory against Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust. Workers prevented the establishment of another such wholly owned subsidiary through industrial action.
The message from the iFM workers was clear. Yes we want NHS pay, but we won't stop fighting until we're employed directly by the NHS!
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