Whipps X Strike

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Ancillary workers at Whipps Cross Hospital north London were yesterday organising for three days of strike action from today in a dispute over equal pay and conditions.

‘Unless Initial make an offer by midnight tonight, the strikes are going ahead tomorrow,’ UNISON regional organiser Maurice Sheehan told News Line yesterday.

He added: ‘We will be handing out leaflets outside Initial Rentokil’s head office on Thursday.

‘They have threatened us with legal action saying it is unlawful.

‘But we are insisting it is lawful and will be exercising our legal right to assemble and hand out information.’

Len Hockey, joint branch secretary of UNISON at Waltham Forest health branch, and a porter for Initial Hospital Services, the company at the centre of the dispute, spoke to News Line yesterday.

‘There are three days of strike action,’ he said.

‘We had a move by the employers to try and resolve this dispute last week, but that hasn’t been successful. Their offer has fallen short of the aspirations of staff, so the strike continues.

‘Three years ago we had a strike in pursuit of equal pay and conditions with directly employed NHS staff, who do the same job.

‘We won an agreement then and it was due for delivery on April 1 this year.

‘The agreement was that we would receive exactly the same pay and terms and conditions as the directly-employed NHS staff, under the Agenda for Change.

‘We are asking for messages of support and donations to our hardship fund.’

Picket lines will commence at 6.00am this morning outside the hospital main gate on Whipps Cross Road until 6.00pm, followed by 12-hour strikes on Thursday and Friday.

Hockey continued: ‘The workers employed by Initial are taking the action.

‘They are quite angered that the agreement has been reneged on and the employer is seeking to effectively hang on to money that is theirs and that has been due to them since April 1.

‘Their current rates of pay are as low as £5.52 per hour and the majority of staff here have no sick pay.

‘They work long hours, often with two jobs, and they have inferior holidays to their colleagues who are directly employed in the NHS.

‘This is connected to the fact that this government is intent on wholesale privatisation of healthcare.

‘The whole trade union movement should unite against it.’

Donations to the hardship fund should be care of Chris Remington, Head of Health and Higher Education at UNISON, First Floor, Congress House, Great Russell St, London WC1B 3LS. Cheques can be made payable to UNISON and messages of support can be sent to Len Hockey, joint branch secretary, UNISON Office, Whipps Cross Hospital, Leytonstone, London E11 1NR.