A well supported picket line outside the Maidstone NHS Logistics depot on Tuesday evening
A well supported picket line outside the Maidstone NHS Logistics depot on Tuesday evening

THERE WERE up to 50 pickets and supporters on the picket line at the Maidstone NHS Logistics distribution depot on Tuesday evening at 10 pm, at the start of their second 24 hour strike against privatisation.

The five NHS Logistic depots in England are due to be handed over to the German parcels giant DHL on October 1.

Paul Harper, the Unison Branch Secretary Maidstone Distribution Centre, told News Line: ‘It’s looking very good on the picket lines, at least double the numbers as on the last picket.

‘We’ve had other London hospital workers here, teachers and doctors.

‘It’s been really good. Two went in and came out. Everyone is still very angry. There is a strong feeling they want to go further.

‘What’s done it for us is the DHL wanting to sack all those people.

‘People said “We don’t want to work for this firm”.’

Harper added: ‘The public need to get involved. We need further action, quickly. Perhaps even to link up with the GMB when they strike against DHL’s threat to 3,000 jobs.

‘When we heard about them being in dispute with thousands of their employees, there was uproar on the picket line.

‘The TUC promised us there would be primary action and demonstrations.

‘This is a national issue, not a local one. I would like to see them keep their promise, but we are waiting.

‘I’d like to see a demonstration on the 1st of October especially if they ignore the Unison motion at the Labour conference today

‘It would be good if the TUC called all its affiliated unions out on the 1st.

‘All 15 or 16 health unions, and the others – the FBU and RMT are already on the picket lines with us and the students.’

Tony Owens, Shop Steward, told News Line: ‘Blair is the major reason for me tearing up my membership for the Labour Party.

‘The NHS is necessary to everyone and we should call on all trade unions to take action with us.

‘It would be helpful if the TUC would call joint action to win the dispute quickly.

‘All the trade unions should take strike action together with us on the 1st if they try to push through the privatisation.

‘We can’t do it on our own because we want to get the supplies out to the hospitals.

‘I would support an occupation to keep the supplies going and to keep DHL out.

‘Look at the hopeless mess they would make of it’.

Arnold McCreath, Unison on the picket line said: ‘At this moment what is going on between Blair and Logistics is because we trusted him and he has turned on the unions and is using them as a road-side recovery service for winning elections.

‘When we raised the issue of PFI (Private Finance Initiative) with MP’s as being bad practice, along with all their other bad practices like going to war on Iraq, bombing Lebanon – our foreign policy – we should take into account the intent to privatise NHS distribution centres and equate both policies as bad practice.

‘We have to review our relationship with the Labour Party especially those in the Labour party who are betraying us.

‘We want a Joint Action Group, a JAG – with Amicus, RMT, Unison, GMB and all unions – to get together to review this situation. We want accountability from top to bottom.

‘Today TUC leader, Brendan Barber, remarked on Blair’s Departure.

‘He said a lot of things were achieved by Blair. What we want to know is, What?

‘And what have Barber and Prentis done. Why have they not rebelled, why have they let it go for so long.

‘If I had a brown tongue I might also get a better job, but I joined the union for the next generation.

‘I am saying there should be a general strike to win this fight.

‘All unions should have a focus group and sit down around the table to coordinate action and all the people should support them.’

Peter, a striking Logistics worker, who preferred to use his first name only said: ‘This is an award winning service for deliveries. Everyone is happy with the service we provide to the health service.

‘But everyone in power wants things to run differently, why not leave it the way it is.

‘MP’s in Parliament should listen to the people.

‘They are in there for themselves and not for the public.

‘All the unions have to come together at the end of the day and take action to win this dispute.’

There were 20 pickets and supporters on the picket line at the NHS Logistics distribution centre at Bury St Edmunds.

At 10pm the livery picket was handing out leaflets to all of the workers as they came out of the plant.

Unison member Ron Flynn told News Line: ‘There is a general feeling that the NHS is being reorganised for the benefit of big business and not for the benefit of the working class.

‘At our local West Suffolk hospital there is a concern that we will lose our Accident and Emergency Department and be downgraded from an acute hospital to an out-patients department.

‘Obviously the government line is for a “super hospital’’.

‘They say there will be a better service, but most locals believe that we give the best service.

‘We have an eye clinic that only opened two years ago.

‘The Primary Care Trust says we’re too efficient and are cutting our funds. It’s the same at Ipswich.

‘We must vote with our feet. We have the power. Now’s the time to use it.’

Greg Grant, also from UNISON, told News Line: ‘It’s the first national official dispute for 18 years.

‘It does show that people are not happy about it and are willing to do something about it.

‘If this is part of the government’s marketisation proposals, there’ll be a lot more of this in the future.

‘That’s why it must be stopped here.’