On the Picket Line

Hospital workers in London strike for withheld pay

By Pamela Holmes
March 11, 2024

LONDON — Hospital workers, members of the Unite union, held a lively strike picket line here Feb. 20 on the busy main road by the entrance to the Royal London Hospital, part of the Barts NHS Trust chain, the largest in the U.K. The NHS is the government’s National Health Service.

The three-day strike, from Feb. 19-21, demanded payment of the lump-sum amount NHS workers were promised when they kept working through the COVID pandemic. The workers involved in the walkout included most nonmedical workers crucial to keeping the hospital running.

A significant number of the strikers had been involved in a previous strike battle when their jobs were outsourced to Serco.

“When I started we were part of the NHS. Then they outsourced us to Carillion, then they moved us to Serco,” Gill Kearsley, who has worked in food service for 34 years at both the Royal London Hospital and Barts, told this Militant worker-correspondent. “Last year they moved us back in to the NHS, but after the cutoff date for the COVID payment, so they won’t pay us the lump sum. It’s not right.”

Recent strike action by Unite members in the East Kent NHS Trust won payment of the lump sum, worth 1,655 pounds ($2,100), making the Barts Trust workers even more determined.

Ebrima Sonko, who works at Royal London, got a copy of the Militant. “It’s good to know about other people’s struggles and learn from them,” he said.

Dozens of hospital workers held a spirited rally Feb. 21 outside the Department of Health in Westminster, waving mops, blowing horns, banging metal bowls and holding union flags. They are considering further strike action.