On the Picket Line

UK hospital workers wage second strike, call further action

By Hugo Wils
July 9, 2018
Hospital workers march in Wigan, England, June 9 during 48-hour strike over jobs transfer, new two-tier pay.
Militant/Pete CliffordHospital workers march in Wigan, England, June 9 during 48-hour strike over jobs transfer, new two-tier pay.

WIGAN, England — “New starters would be getting less money,” striking hospital worker Sharon Pemberton told a June 9 union rally here. Hospital bosses “want to divide us into two tiers, but we are on strike together, united and determined.”

Members of the UNISON and UNITE trade unions were waging their second 48-hour strike against plans by Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh National Health Service Foundation Trust bosses to transfer all their 900 catering, cleaning, porter and other jobs to a new company set up and owned by them, called WWL Solutions Ltd.

Current workers would keep their wages, but new hires would get less.

Already more than 10,000 workers in 19 different NHS trusts across England have been transferred to similar companies, laying the basis for widening wage differentials among hospital workers. At Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital in Yorkshire workers are balloting for strike action over similar plans by the NHS Trust bosses there.

Karma McKeefery, a staff nurse at Wrightington Hospital, came to the rally to support the strikers. “We’ve got the strength, we just need to use it,” she told the Militant. “They’re picking us off one by one, we should get together and join up the dots!” Members of the National Education Union; the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union; and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers joined the march.

Workers also were angry at slurs directed against them in the press by Mike Evans, son of hospital trust Associate Director for Estates and Facilities David Evans. He had branded every striking worker a “lazy jobsworth looser [sic] that will never amount to anything” and a “set of scumbags.”

“I am one of the so-called scumbags,” striker John Myles told the rally.

Hundreds of strikers, family members and supporters marched to the rally. Many bystanders clapped their hands in support as the labor protest passed through Wigan city center.

Dave Fagan, a meat worker at Tulip in Dukinfield, Greater Manchester, and member of the Community union there, joined the picket after work on June 8 along with four of his co-workers. “The strikers have to keep the pressure on and so must we in supporting them,” Fagan said.

A new, five-day strike has been called to start June 28.