Hundreds of key NHS workers, employed by the giant outsourcing company, Serco, have voted for industrial action across Barts Health NHS Trust in a battle against low pay and exploitation.
With a 97% vote in favour of industrial action the workers are now armed with a clear mandate. Unless there is an agreement on pay and conditions, strikes will be set for January 2022.
Serco Group PLC had a turnover of £3.9 billion last year but the multinational is offering staff just a 1 per cent pay hike. The mainly Black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAEM) staff, which include cleaners and porters, are paid up to 15 per cent less than directly employed NHS staff.
Unite has branded the offer an “insult” to the workers who risked their lives at the height of the pandemic, and continue to put themselves at risk. Serco and Barts now have an opportunity to reach an agreement with Unite and prevent a strike in the New Year.
Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham said, “It’s time to take note of the strength of feeling of these NHS workers, who are being left in limbo as Barts and Serco prevaricate and pass the buck on their demands for a decent wage. Unite will be unwavering in our support of these union members and unless Barts and Serco put an end to their low pay and exploitation there will be strike action in January.”
The workers are fed up with Serco management’s bullying and exploitation,” she added. “The staff are fighting back against the draconian use of the company’s sickness and disciplinary policies, bullying by management and unmanageable workloads. Barts NHS Trust also bear responsibly for the workers’ treatment because it awarded Serco the contract and has the power to intervene.”
Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed said, “Barts Health NHS Trust need to bring these workers, employed by Serco not the NHS, back in-house. They have had enough of poverty pay and intimidation. Serco workers are exposed to the same risks as NHS-employed staff but they are paid much less and treated disgracefully.”
Unite balloted ancillary staff including cleaners and porters across Royal London Hospital, Whipps Cross and St Barts.
By Ciaran Naidoo