ON THE final day of their three-day strike, the Whipps Cross hospital workers were confident of beating the employer and getting the money they deserve.
Nearly 300 porters, cleaners and switchboard staff employed by Rentokil Initial at the East London hospital have held a series of strikes in a dispute over Initial’s failure to honour an equal pay and bonus deal in April 2006, that came out of a previous strike in 2003.
Local UNISON official Len Hockey said more action is planned this month.
Vinod Nagla, a UNISON member and porter at the hospital, said yesterday: ‘The strike is going strong and everyone is for it and we’re all out together.
‘We are getting a lot of support from other hospitals, yesterday (Thursday morning) they were all here early at 7.00am.
‘There were 20 people from different hospitals, stewards and workers from Barnet, Haringey and even Lambeth hospitals came down.
‘The London Fire Brigade came down to the picket and donated money to the strike from their union.
‘It’s not just that they have come to support us, they realise that if wage cutting happens elsewhere then we all have to come together for extra strength and fight these private contractors.
‘We are fighting our issue, but it is an issue that affects other hospitals and other workplaces.
‘That is, the private contractors coming into the public services and cutting jobs and pay.
‘They want workers to work longer hours for less money, so they can make more profits.
‘That is why I support the ladies from Gate Gourmet.
‘What they did is fight for their rights and they gave our struggle extra strength because they showed that what you want, you must fight for.
‘They are real fighters because they won’t give in and good luck to them.’
Jeff Edwards, a UNISON member and porter, said: ‘We are determined to win our struggle and there will be no giving up.
‘If it takes a month, six months, whatever it takes we will do it.
‘The thing is we are on low pay anyway, so we know what it is like to go without.
‘We are fighting to get the private contractors out, not just out of this hospital but the whole NHS.’
• Second news story
500 JOB CUTS & 250 BED CUTS IN GLOUCESTER NHS
Gloucestershire health workers have been shocked and angered by planned £10m cuts in mental health services in the county announced by Gloucestershire Partnership NHS Trust on Thursday.
Under the plans, NHS day care for mentally ill adults is to be scrapped and in-patient services will be centralised in Gloucester and Cheltenham.
During a meeting to announce the cuts – which include 500 job cuts and closing 240 beds – around 30 clinicians and staff walked out.
Jim Stone, Ward Manager at Wotton Lawn Hospital said the walkout was sparked by ‘a complete lack of consultation on what we feel’.
He said staff were angry about the closures that have already taken place which had ‘just been rail-roaded through without sufficient consultation with staff, service users, carers and the general public’.
South West Unison spokesman Francis O’Ryan added: ‘People are disappointed, very upset and angry and I believe there is a strong possibility there will be some form of industrial action in future.’
Meanwhile, Nick Adams, Gloucestershire Hospitals UNISON branch secretary, told News Line yesterday: ‘The government’s new Payment by Results system has lost us £17.5m to £20m.
‘That will impact on acute services.
‘The trust plans to close the maternity unit at Cheltenham General Hospital and the rehabilitation unit at De Lancey Hospital, Cheltenham.
‘They want to reposition the Cheltenham maternity facilities at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital which is eight miles away and will require a new build.
‘On top of that, our sister trust in the county has their own proposal for closing Stroud Maternity Hospital and the closure of mental health facilities across the county.
‘Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust came out at a surplus last year based on hard work and good housekeeping.
‘We as an acute trust have been asked to contribute a substantial amount of money to the regional rescue fund to help out the other hospitals in the south west region who are seriously in debt.
‘This is basically unfair and it will impact on the care we can give to our patients, both in acute and the primary care trusts.
‘As a result, the total amount of money that Gloucestershire will be unable to spend in this financial year will be in the region of £40m.’