On the Picket Line

UK hospital workers strike for wage equality

By Anne Howie
November 5, 2018

BOLTON, England — “We’re not invisible any more!” Tina Travers, a porter and Unison member, told a rally of unionists on strike at Royal Bolton Hospital here Oct. 12. This was the second day of a two-day walkout by over 300 hospital workers — caterers, cleaners and porters employed by Integrated Facilities Management Bolton. The Unison union members are fighting for equal pay with other National Health Service workers.

Joanne Finch, a hospital domestic from Wigan, urged the striking workers to “stick together just as you are now.” Earlier this year NHS workers there waged a successful strike to stop their jobs from being contracted out to an “independent” subsidiary company like Integrated Facilities Management.

Cliff Halliday, a porter at Royal Bolton, told the Militant that when they were transferred to IFM, which is wholly owned by Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, they were promised their wages would continue to match those of NHS workers. But while the lowest paid health service workers get £8.92 per hour ($10.35), rising to £9.89 over two years, Integrated Facilities Management workers remain at £7.83 per hour.

“I never had to go on strike before, but we’re all standing together and I’m not scared,” Andrea Lee, a domestic at the hospital told Bolton News. “We’re NHS workers and we should be paid the NHS rates.”

Unison Regional Organizer Vance Butterworth confirmed in a phone interview Oct. 22 that Integrated Facilities Management had agreed to the strikers’ demand for wage parity.