More than 700 cleaners, porters, and security staff at Barts NHS Trust in London are nearing the end of a 7 day strike for a pay increase of 30p per hour, for shorter hours, and against management bullying.
The staff are employed by Serco, who won an £600 million contract to provide services at Barts. Staff at Mile End Hospital, Royal London Hospital, St Bartholomew’s and Whipps Cross have all taken part in the action, with vibrant picket lines outside their workplaces.
The ballot over strike action by Unite came back with 99% in favour in June, and was followed by a 48 hour strike at the start of July. Workers plan to escalate to a 14-day strike from 25th July if their demands for a pay rise are not met, with more industrial action planned for August and September if necessary.
Serco made profits of over £80 million in 2016, and low paid hospital staff are demanding the 30p per hour increase to recognise the vital contribution they make to hospital care. Serco management said they were "disappointed" at the strike action, because the cleaners already earn London Living Wage.
However cleaners have testified to exhausting work schedules, physically impossible to complete, leading to unpaid overtime and breakdowns, and contributing to poor hygiene in hospitals. Docs Not Cops interviewed staff on the picket line last week:
We've been visiting #BartsStrike picket line and spoke to one of the cleaners about why she is taking strike action against #slipperyserco pic.twitter.com/Uj2veceA49— DocsNotCops (@DocsNotCops) July 5, 2017
Domestic staff employed by Serco at the Royal London Hospital staged a wild-cat strike three months ago after their morning breaks were cancelled with no notice, with 120 staff walking out immediately and barricading themselves into the canteen until the break was reinstated.
The strikers are a mostly migrant workforce, but their union leader Len McCluskey, a major Corbyn supporter, has called for restricted immigration controls. Serco check the immigration status of their workers and get them deported, as well as running a number of detention centres in the UK and internationally. Their CEO is Rupert Soames, grandson of Winston Churchill, who earns £850k/year plus bonuses.
Serco’s massive profits come from privatisation and outsourcing – as well as large contracts throughout the NHS, they run prisons, detention centres, school inspections, speed cameras, the National Nuclear Laboratory, and Boris Bikes. Solidarity with the striking workers at Barts has been expressed by campaigners against the notorious Yarls Wood detention centre, also run by Serco.