‘LOW PAY – NO WAY!’ say striking Serco workers

Serco strikers fighting for a 30p an hour increase, on the picket line at the London Hospital yesterday morning
Serco strikers fighting for a 30p an hour increase, on the picket line at the London Hospital yesterday morning

‘LOW PAY – NO WAY!’ shouted Unite Serco strikers on a lively picket line outside the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel yesterday morning.

Cleaners, catering workers, porters and security staff employed by private contractor Serco were on the second day of their latest strike, this time for 14 days, to demand a 3% pay rise and more staff. Serco workers at all four hospitals under the Bart’s Hospital Trust are out.

At Royal London, Unite member and cleaner Barnieh Johnson told News Line: ‘We don’t know what is happening about the money. Serco are saying nothing. We need a 30p-an-hour pay rise. The company is not accepting that, but we need that rise. The job is not easy for us. They give us more work to do but they don’t pay us any more.’

Royal London Unite rep Ebrima Sonko, who was signing in new strikers, said: ‘The strike is going well. Many more are joining the union and the strike. ‘This is because of the workload. The company are getting people who are not on strike to work long hours to cover. So people say it’s not worth it and are joining the strike.

‘This has strengthened us and it’s costing Serco more for bringing in new people. Our members are firm, they want to see this through to the end. We are determined to get a pay rise. We have to force them to come to the table. We would like the support from the other unions. We have had support from Unison but not the branch at Bart’s Health. We should be working for the NHS but management won’t take responsibility. They just want to privatise and look where that ends up.’

Serco worker and Unite member Vaidas Gricius said: ‘I have worked here at the Royal London for eight and a half years. I used to work for Carillion but now we have been taken over by Serco. We should be taken back to work directly for the NHS.

‘They want us, in the future, to clean patients’ bodily fluids from the floor or from the beds and other equipment. We are not trained for this, it is not in our job description. This strike must spread and this government must be kicked out.’

At Whipps Cross Hospital in Walthamstow east London on the second day of their two week strike, Unite member and Serco worker Bright Ephraim said: ‘Other hospital workers have to follow our lead and join the strike. We want Serco to know that we will continue to fight until we get what we want.’

Nasseem Gassamally a Serco worker at Whipps Cross told News Line: ‘I work in A&E and there was only me working. It was very busy and I never stopped cleaning from 6am until 2pm. Every time a patient leaves a cubicle I must go in to the cubicle and clean to get it ready for the next patient. There are not enough staff and we are doing the job of more than two people.

‘I do not have time to clean everything. How can I? We are very angry. I am trying to do my best to keep everything clean but with so few staff this is impossible. They have brought untrained workers to try and break our strike and they do not know what they are doing. If the wards are not cleaned properly patients can get infections. This is dangerous! If there is a danger of infection, this is Serco’s fault and their responsibility.’

• The following motions were passed at the London Regional Council Executive of the BMA on Tuesday night

1. The BMA London Regional Council meeting sends a message of support to the Bart’s ancillary workers fighting against private company Serco to defend working conditions and for a 30 pence an hour rise.

We will send a delegation on any future march of the Serco workers in solidarity with them and to defend the NHS against STP cuts and privatisation.

2. The BMA LRC proposes to organise a London demonstration in opposition to the STP cuts and privatisations, hospital and GP closures, and capped expenditure programme.