Great Ormond Street security staff rally

GOSH security guards at their rally on Thursday, demanding to be taken in-house on decent terms and conditions

SECURITY workers from Great Ormond St Children’s Hospital (GOSH) held a rally on Thursday at lunchtime to mark the end of their six week strike, in the park at the end of Great Ormond Street.

They went back to work yesterday.

However, they will be striking again every Friday in April, and holding a Friday rally, as there is still six weeks of the strike mandate to run.

The union organiser from the United Voices of the World (UVW), opened the meeting. He said: ‘Management is not budging. The unions in GOSH are not in support of the UVW. Other union leaders are in bed with the managers. The (Black and Minority Ethnic) BAME department does not help.

‘The hard-fought strike for parity and equality with the 40,000 staff of GOSH continues.

‘Shame on GOSH. GOSH has stonewalled us. They threw a punitive injunction on us. We were in the park. You can’t scare us. We’re going to fight. We are going to win.’

Martin Ralph from Liverpool Trades Council, travelled down to show the support that GOSH workers are receiving. He said that this is an attack on the working class, on precarious workers, and it is racist.

He read some messages of support for the strike from workers in Europe and called for building an international movement of workers independent of class bureaucrats.

Bettina brought greetings of support to the GOSH workers from the UCU branch at University College London. She said: ‘Your strike is an inspiration for us. We will be out for five days next week from Monday to Friday.’

Amanda Bentham from the NEU in east London, reminded people of the disgraceful way the police had strip-searched a black school girl in a Hackney school. There is to be demonstration on Friday by Sisters Uncut.

George Binette from Camden Trades Council condemned the plight of the GOSH security guards with inadequate pensions and poor conditions.

He said: ‘GOSH workers are at the forefront against outsourcing these essential jobs.’

He added that the ancillary workers at Barts Health had carried out a two week strike and as a result 1,800 workers are being taken back in-house in May 2023.

He continued: ‘There is a ballot going on at Croydon University hospital, on the same issue in relation to outsourcer G4S.’

He hoped the threshold for strike action would be reached.

He concluded: ‘GOSH receives over £50m per year in charitable donations, yet is forking out money to outsourced security company, Carlyle Services, run by former chairman of the Tory party, Lord Ashcroft.

‘There is silence from the leader of the Labour Party, the Labour MP for St Pancras and Holborn, Sir Keir Starmer, despite the fact that it is Labour policy to end outsourcing.’

Apsana Begum, MP for Tower Hamlets, said: ‘They are pressurising workers to go back to work even though the pandemic is not gone, and many workplaces are completely unsafe.

‘It’s a shame that GOSH have sought to silence you with injunctions.

‘You are fighting for your right to strike and for human rights.

‘GOSH management have taken back the cleaners in house. So they are playing divide and rule with you. The security guards are as essential. All departments have to work together with the same terms and conditions to keep us safe.’

John McDonnell Labour MP, said : ‘There is a cost of living crisis. It is due to a long-term crisis of neoliberal economics and diktats of the market going on for at least 40 years.

‘There is now a unique opportunity for people to question the whole system, and think about a socialist alternative.’

Strikers themselves then spoke. Erica said: ‘Thank you to all of you for being here. I’m nearly seven months pregnant. I will continue fighting till I go on maternity leave. I see it as fighting for my children.

‘We were supposed to rally with the cleaners today. Then management suddenly gave them everything they want. Why not us? I’m a member of staff as well.

‘There were 33 of us security guards, with no changing rooms and no locker rooms. We will still be here. Please continue to support us. They are trying to silence us with this injunction.’

Alan said: ‘Why do you think we are second class citizens? This is wrong. We had to work for a series of different contractors including Mitie and ICS and Carlisle. We will continue until we win.’

Sam said: ‘We want justice. I appreciate your support. You chose to fight on the side of the oppressed not the oppressor.

‘We are responsible people. We do not want trouble. GOSH please engage with us. You shouldn’t ignore us. We know GOSH can do better. We are appealing to you again. I have worked at GOSH for seven years under all different contractors. This is inequality and injustice.

‘Outsourcing is killing dreams and destroying futures. Outsourcing is more than the pandemic.’

Mimy, a tall young woman, said: ‘I am disturbed about the politics of cutting the numbers.

‘When we started, we were 28 security guards. They have taken 20 of them off.’

(She later explained that 33 security officers work at GOSH, and asked to be transferred to NHS Agenda for Change terms and conditions. 28 of them took up the fight for this. The management however managed to scare 20 workers to stop striking.)

Today we were supposed to be joined by the cleaners. Domestics, a hundred of them were supposed to be with us today.

(She explained that as soon as management found out that the domestics were going to join the rally, they immediately gave way and granted them full NHS Agenda for Change Terms and Conditions, which they had previously only partially granted).

She added: ‘They are using divide and rule. We have been asking for negotiations since the beginning. You ignore us and push us to this level. Please find time to negotiate.’

Peter said: ‘We have to remind GOSH of our experiences before this strike. It started a long time ago with this divide-and-rule and discrimination. We realised and we teamed up.

‘We have to go to the toilet to change. Colleagues have their own changing rooms. We are third class citizens in the building.

‘We were here during the pandemic doing the job 24/7 on the ground. We were fighting Covid but we were spreading Covid as there is no sick pay. We continue to fight, determined. Never broken.’

Two domestic workers joined the rally.

Abe said: ‘People have said it all. Thank you for your support. I have been a Labour member for 17 years. The fight is not over yet. GOSH pushed us to the limit. We balloted seven months ago.

‘We invited them to negotiate with the union. They refused. They took us to court. They attacked “vigorous dancing.” I love to dance and express my joy.

‘We should be allowed to be at the front door.’ (The injunction stops the strikers from being at the front door of the hospital and does not allow vigorous dancing.)

To chants of ‘We are going to fight. We are going to win’  the assembled audience moved off in march formation, to rally on the opposite side of the road to the hospital entrance, and sing some trade union songs.