MASSES of workers and supporters turned out for the first day of the 15 day strike action at the Royal London Hospital yesterday, part of Barts Health Trust, which began at midnight on Sunday 30 January.
A big Unite union banner said: ‘End Unfair Pay! Stop outsourcing!’
Workers were enthusiastically chanting: ‘No Way, No Way, Serco has got to go!’
The lively picketers, who made a lot of noise with trumpets, marched around the Royal London site several times before assembling for a rally at 11.00am.
The first speaker was regional Secretary of Unite Peter Kavanagh. He congratulated the workers for a fantastic demo and their staunch 97% strike vote.
He asked: ‘Why the anger and the determination? You’ve worked through the pandemic, putting your lives and the lives of your loved ones on the line. You have been surrounded by suffering and death. Then there was the clapping on Thursdays and the praise from Boris Johnson.
‘But praise and clapping do not pay the bills, which are going up by the day. The Retail Price Inflation is 7%, gas and electric are going up by £2,000 a year in April.
‘National Insurance is going up 1.25% – this might be OK for workers on a decent wage – and if the money went to pay workers properly and address the staff shortages – but it must not be used to line the pockets of sharks like Serco.
‘Serco’s response was a 1% offer, which was only increased when they saw the 97% strike vote. I am disappointed another union claimed the 3% increase was due to talks they had last week.
‘In the first six months of 2021, Serco’s profits doubled. Serco received millions of pounds in Test and Trace contracts. Two top executives rewarded themselves with £7.4m last year, when just £1 went to every frontline worker.
‘Mr Rupert Soames, head of Serco, told the government he would sharply focus on delivering more and better for less. That means workers working harder for less money. Can we accept that?
‘As Unite the Union, we will make sure, that workers get a fair slice of the cake.
‘Barts Hospital trust, should stop handing money to privateers, and bring services in-house now. Why are millions going into privateers, when the money could be used for decent terms and conditions for workers.
‘Why? Why are Barts paying 11.5% less than NHS colleagues for doing the same job?
‘We want resolution, Agenda for Change terms and conditions, all workers employed “in–house” and a fair pay rise this year.
‘Where there’s a will there’s a way. No justice No peace. Onward to victory.’
Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, Apsana Begum, welcomed the energy and solidarity of the workers.
She said: ‘We needed the support and stability of the health service in this uncertain time. And it must keep going free at the point of use.
‘But we have seen the government hand over GP surgeries to companies like Centene. Millions were wasted on Test and Trace contracts given to Serco, which has a track record of failure.’
She empathised with the hardship and suffering of workers in the pandemic, especially the ethnic minority workers who had a lack of PPE.
‘Make sure you get the money you deserve. You should not get paid 15% less than NHS workers. I will support you in parliament, on picket lines and demonstrations.’
On the picket line earlier that morning Patience Ojarikre, Unite member and ward host at the hospital, told News Line: ‘The strike is about a pay rise.
‘We work very hard and we get nothing for our hard work.
‘During the Covid pandemic we work along with the nurses.
‘We are among the frontline and we risk our lives by going amongst the ward and we have nothing to show for it in terms of pay.
‘We want the NHS to take us back in-house and we want no more privatisation.’