Strikes hit hospitals and airports as workers rise up against wage cutting!

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WHILE the Tories tear themselves apart awaiting the heavily redacted report by Sue Gray into Boris Johnson and all the parties at Downing Street during lockdown, and splitting apart over the decision by Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to increase National Insurance Contributions, the working class is taking its own action.

Strikes and protests have broken out against the destruction of workers’ wages at the hands of the privateer outsourcing giants in the NHS, along with the announcement of industrial action against another outsourcing company in the aviation sector.

Hundreds of key NHS workers employed by the outsourcing giant Serco came out yesterday on a two-weeks strike across Barts Health NHS Trust.

Cleaners, porters, security, catering and reception staff across St Barts, Royal London and Whipps Cross hospitals have taken action after Serco refused to improve a pay offer which, according to the Unite union, amounts to less than 3% for the workers at a time when inflation has jumped to 7.5%.

This wage cutting offer comes as the latest figures show that Serco Group plc had a turnover of £3.9 billion while its staff in the Barts Trust are paid up to 15% less than directly employed NHS workers.

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?’

This strike at Barts Health Trust was joined yesterday by a protest held outside Croydon Hospital.

Cleaners and porters in the Croydon University Hospital trust, represented by the GMB union, demonstrated demanding full sick pay from their outsourcing employer G4S.

These workers are incensed that G4S have not paid sick pay to those forced to remain off work due to Covid.

G4S has stopped paying Covid sick pay to its workers, leaving them reliant on statutory sick pay to put food on the table or face being forced to work while sick and potentially spreading the virus.

While workers have been off sick suffering from Covid they have not received a penny from G4S.

GMB regional organiser Helen O’Connor insisted: ‘Our members are not taking industrial action at this stage’ but warned: ‘If they can’t put their money where their mouth is, we will have to look to escalate our campaign until they can.’

Doctors at the trust have pledged their full support to the GMB workers and written to the trust head calling for him to intervene directly to ensure they receive the London Living Wage and occupational sick pay.

Meanwhile at Heathrow airport, 400 members of Unite employed by Menzies Aviation will be coming out on a three-day strike starting 11 February and timed to coincide with the busy half-term holiday period.

Menzies is contracted to provide ground handling and passenger services for airlines and for refuelling British Airways planes.

Workers at the contractor are furious that at the peak of the pandemic Menzies used fire and rehire to cut their wages.

In the most extreme cases workers saw their pay rates fall by £9,000 a year.

Unite’s Sharon Graham said: ‘Menzies cynically used the cover of the pandemic to fire and rehire its workers to boost long-term profits and is now refusing to even consider a pay rise.’

In fact, wage cutting and fire and rehire, along with zero hour contracts, are all that capitalism has to offer the working class as it collapses into bankruptcy, and the bosses are desperate to keep their profits up by driving down wages.

Last year, Unite pledged a campaign of ‘coordinated strikes across the country’ to end fire and rehire, and the time is long overdue for trade unions to mobilise to call a general strike to put an end to all the wage cutting.

With the working class on the move to defend its pay and conditions, and the Tories reeling in political turmoil, the time is ripe for a general strike to bring them down and go forward to a workers’ government that will expropriate the bosses, put an end to the privateers, and bring in a socialist planned economy.