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Employment

Hundreds of hospital workers begin two-week strike over pay

Staff at three London hospitals are striking in protest of “poverty pay and unmanageable workloads”.

Hundreds of NHS hospital workers including cleaners, security guards, porters and caterers have begun a two-week strike over pay.

Union Unite claims that the mainly Black, Asian and ethnic minority staff employed by private sector company Serco are paid up to 15 per cent less than counterparts who are directly employed by the NHS

The strikes are taking place outside St Barts, Royal London and Whipps Cross hospitals in London, with local activists and MPs joining to show their support. 

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“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?” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.

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

Unite is calling on Barts Health NHS Trust to bring the contractors in-house, as well as improving pay. Serco announced that it would increase its pay offer to a total of 3 per cent, backdated to last April, saying that this is in line with that being received by NHS employees.

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“We are extremely disappointed with the notification of strike action from Unite as we recently increased the pay offer for our employees to a total of 3 per cent, backdated to April 2021,” said Taddy McAuley, Serco’s contract director for Barts Health.

“Serco also recently announced a £100 ex gratia payment for all of our 52,000 frontline employees around the world, including all our colleagues at Barts Health,” he continued. 

“The failed Serco Test and Trace system showed us that health services should only be delivered by the NHS,” tweeted Apsana Begum, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, who is scheduled to speak at a rally.

Serco was the company behind England’s Test and Trace system. A damning report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee found that despite receiving a budget equal to nearly 20 per cent of the entire 2020-21 NHS England budget (£37billion), it failed to achieve its main objective of breaking chains of transmission. 

Serco has said that the company hoped to work with Unite to avoid the “unnecessary” action.

The strike is one of many happening in what has been called a winter of discontent. Outsourced security guards at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) who are members of the United Voices of the World union are set to strike for six weeks. They are demanding the same annual leave, sick pay, and career progression as those employed by the NHS.

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