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Whipps Cross


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From: The Socialist issue 452, 24 August 2006: Unite against war, terror and racism

Search site for keywords: Whipps Cross - Hospital - London - Unison

Whipps Cross hospital strike:

"We won't be treated like dirt"

PUBLIC HEALTH NOT PRIVATE PROFIT

LOW-PAID ancillary workers were on the picket line outside Whipps Cross hospital in east London on 14 and 15 August. "We are determined to get a just settlement of our claim", joint UNISON branch secretary Len Hockey told the socialist.

The workers, employed by Initial Hospital Services, are fighting for a pay rise they won three years ago, when they won a battle for parity in pay with workers who had previously been employed directly by the NHS.

Over 200 of the workers out of the 240 UNISON branch members had joined the picket over the two-day strike.

Angry

"We're very angry," a group of women workers explained. "They have not paid us the wage rises we were promised back in 2003. The same is true of sick pay, better annual leave and higher London weighting - life in London is very expensive.

"Now Initial are treating us like we were dirt. They never even called to tell us what they were going to do. So we're striking to make the company and the Trust hear us and to make sure our demands are met. We're an important part of the NHS. We help to keep our hospitals clean. They should implement the agreement."

"It's part of a bigger battle," another worker added. "The NHS is threatening redundancies and ward closures while contractors try to cut our hours and refuse to honour agreements - all to save money.

"Why should domestics be sacked or treated like a used piece of rag? Who is the NHS being run for - the public or contractors' profits?"

Another worker said: "We were promised better wages and conditions that were supposed to come in by April 2006. We deserve this money - we can't survive on our present wages - and we'll fight for these improvements.

"At present they're having to pay agency staff costing 10 an hour. Why don't they just pay the workers a decent wage? The Trust needs to support us but they're not coming out with any comment. They're all putting the blame on everyone else."

Support

ONE OF the features of the strikes by the Whipps Cross Initial workers has been the support on the picket lines. Almost all of the UNISON members have participated on them. Even strikers' relatives have been turning up to show solidarity.

Many other hospital workers have come along to show their support. Elizabeth told the socialist: "I'm a health worker at Whipps Cross. I'm here because it's an injustice for a government establishment to bring in a private company who are not well equipped to deal with staff. They came in with an agreement and they should stick to that agreement."

During the strike UNISON discovered evidence that that hospital trust had pledged support for the original deal. Strikers therefore attended the trust board meeting on 18 August to demand that they live up to their responsibilities and fund the agreement.

They have refused to do this so far, in spite of the fact that the increase is being paid in other east London hospitals. Another strike will therefore go ahead over three days from 30 August, and a five-day strike is planned for September.

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