Outsourced Serco workers at Barts begin two-week strike

Outsourced NHS workers fighting low pay and exploitation hold rally outside Royal London Hospital

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Hundreds of key NHS workers, employed by the giant outsourcing company Serco, began a two week strike across Barts Health NHS Trust today (January 31).

Meanwhile, a rally coinciding with the beginning of the strike outside Royal London Hospital will host speakers including Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar & Limehouse and John McDonnell, MP for Hayes & Harlington.

Further rallies will also be held on Wednesday, (February 2) at St Barts Hospital and on Friday (February 4) at Whipps Cross Hospital, both from 11am.

Unite members who are cleaners, porters, security, catering and reception staff across St Barts, Royal London Hospital, and Whipps Cross will take strike action between today (January 31) and Sunday, February 13.

In the ongoing dispute, talks at Acas stalled after Serco failed to offer a sufficient improvement on its offer, which amounts to less than 3 per cent for some workers. Inflation (RPI) has jumped to 7.5 per cent.  Serco Group PLC had a turnover of £3.9 billion according to the latest figures available. The mainly Black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAEM) staff are paid up to 15 per cent less than directly employed NHS staff.

Commenting, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “The NHS workers taking strike action have their union’s unwavering support. They face the same risks as NHS-employed staff. Why on earth are they being paid significantly worse while being treated disgracefully?

“It’s time to end this injustice. It’s time to bring these workers, employed by Serco not the NHS, back into NHS employment.”

Meanwhile, Unite regional secretary Peter Kavanagh added, “Our members have worked tirelessly through the pandemic, they deserve better. Serco and Barts need to deliver a pay increase that addresses the poor pay and the inequality of treatment compared to directly employed NHS staff at other hospitals in London.”

Unite is calling on Barts to take the soft services contract in-house and swiftly move to transfer the workforce onto Agenda for Change pay, terms and conditions; to intervene now to ensure Serco improves its pay offer; and to demand an end to Serco’s draconian use of the company’s sickness and disciplinary policies, bullying by management and unmanageable workloads. 

By Ciaran Naidoo

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