On the final day of the Labour Party conference (September 26) Unite delegate Ian Bruce moved an emergency motion on the crisis facing the Royal Liverpool Hospital, which had been mothballed following Carillion’s collapse earlier this year.
Ian called it “a scandal created by corporate greed, lies and corruption”.
“The new Royal Liverpool Hospital is 18 months late and sadly still unfinished,” Ian pointed out. “The existing hospital that serves the health needs of Liverpool is falling to pieces and no longer able to properly function.
“The care of patients is suffering because this hospital is inadequate. The dedicated NHS staff are being placed under intolerable pressure due to trying to provide first class care in a third class building.”
Ian placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of construction giant Carillion which collapsed in January.
“No work has occurred on this site since then,” he said. “When the building was inspected the inspectors found many serious structural concerns.
“We don’t know the extent of that damage as the trust won’t release the structural engineering report. On top of that it was revealed only a fortnight ago that some of the cladding on the hospital was unsafe as it doesn’t pass fire tests.”
Referencing the Grenfell disaster, Ian told conference that “we know what devastation this can bring.”
He pointed out that the hospital trust asked Carillion before it went bust, “Was the cladding safe?”
“They responded yes,” he said. “But as we now know Carillion’s management had a serious problem with the truth.
“The cost of replacing the cladding and the structural work will cost millions and even then the hospital has still got to be finished before it can serve the health needs of the people of Liverpool.”
Ian told conference of the growing community campaign, in which Unite has played an integral part, in demanding that the hospital be built.
“The Conservative government which was asleep at the wheel when Carillion went bust have been slumbering ever since and failed to take action to get work restarted,” he said. “Well this week they finally woke up.
“Unite, the trade unions, MPs, the local mayors and most importantly the people of Liverpool secured a great victory yesterday as the Trust announced that the PFI contract will be terminated.
“And rather than a new PFI contract the hospital will be completed through direct government funding.
Ian paid tribute to Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson who he said was “key in helping us win that battle”.
“But there is still a war to be won,” Ian added. “We now know that the hospital will not be operational until spring 2020 — a disgraceful three years late.”
He denounced the fact that the “private spivs” behind the failed PFI deal – Legal and General as well as the European Investment Bank — are going to get compensation.
“They shouldn’t get a penny,” Ian argued. “They should be told you rolled the dice. You lost now pay up now. And any compensation must not be at the expense of the people of Liverpool who have already suffered enough.”
He went on to say that while the Royal Liverpool Hospital campaign welcomed the government’s funding commitment, he said that so far there have been no commitments about which firm will build the hospital and how their workers will be treated.
“The coalition in Liverpool needs to stay together,” Ian asserted. “The Royal Liverpool must be completed with direct employment — not bogus self-employment or umbrella companies.”
He added that their rates of pay must be decent and unions must be given full access to the workplace.
“There must be no chance of the dirty disgusting practice of blacklisting occurring,” he added. “Even a sniff of it would be a betrayal of the people of Liverpool.
“This week we should feel proud of the pressure of the united Labour movement; it has won us an important victory,” Ian concluded as he urged conference to support the motion. “Now lets us ensure workers on the Royal are treated decently, honourably and fairly.”