Outsourced NHS workers’ strike in South London wins gains

qehSince last October outsourced workers employed by ISS at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in South London (the other side of the trust including Lewisham Hospital, which fought off closure in 2012-13) have been on strike several times against the existence of a two-tier workforce. Now they are balloting on concessions from ISS. Here is an interview with Pat Hutton, GMB rep at QEH.

“Since our last strikes at Christmas, GMB has been going round hospitals where they recruited scabs – in Liverpool, Coventry, Westminster, Chelsea, Kingston – organising to stop it. A lot of the scabs were casuals and didn’t know what was going on. With the help of GMB in those places we put a stop to it.

“Here at QEH we’ve been pushing on with recruiting new members – we have over 250 now – and geeing people up.

“We had a plan for the whole week of strikes this week. Picket lines 6am to 6pm Monday. A demonstration in Woolwich Tuesday. Lobbying Parliament Wednesday, and a protest at the ISS head office in Woking on Thursday, before more picketing Friday.

“Then last Wednesday ISS contacted our regional secretary asking for urgent talks on the Thursday, and we got an offer, so we suspended the strikes.

“What they offered will take Band 1, which is porters, domestics and ward hostesses, up from £7.10 to £7.72. Band 2, security and switchboard workers, gup from £7.32 to £9.10. Before they were offering Band 1 21p and Band 2 nothing. Next April Band 1 should get another 14p on top.

“We didn’t get the increase in unsocial hours pay we were demanding, and we didn’t get London weighting for duty managers like me. But overall I think it’s a pretty good deal.

“Over the next few weeks we’ll be meeting and balloting. We’re recommending a yes vote.

“The GMB is stronger at QEH now. ISS know that we are more organised, and can’t go round bullying us any more. Members have got a feeling of solidarity, after the experience of coming out together, particular since we’ve won concessions.

“I want to say that we couldn’t have done this without our GMB full-timer, who has been great. I’ve been in the union 18 years, and she’s pretty unusual. I thought it might be because she’s a new generation, but actually she’s more old school. This is trade unionism where workers don’t mess around, like the miners.

“If workers at Lewisham hospital, which is the other side of our trust, want a similar campaign, we can help and would be happy to. We’re in touch with Unite, which is stronger over there.

“Beyond that what I’d like to see is a national campaign from the GMB and the other unions to bring all NHS workers and services back in house, across the country.”

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