by Len Hockey, Bart’s Unite branch secretary
“Who’s got the power? We got the power! What kind of power? Union power!”
These were the words often chanted by Bart’s health workers in east London in an historic win that secured our return to direct NHS employment, with increases in pay and conditions, and the departure of outsourcer Serco.
Porters, cleaners, back-of-house catering staff, security and reception staff walked out for two weeks of action at the beginning of 2022. The action by 600 Unite members across three hospitals – Royal London, St Bartholomew’s and Whipps Cross – followed a paltry offer from Serco Bart’s, and then the announcement by Serco that it was serving notice to quit the contract, leaving it 18 months early on 30 April 2023.
The inspiring action by the overwhelmingly migrant workforce included daily mass picket lines of up to 180-strong, singing, dancing, and marches to each other’s hospitals and rallies.
The victory has seen the return in-house of each service, starting with security and reception in November 2022, porters in February 2023, and lastly cleaners and caterers on 1 May 2023. In all, over 1,700 workers across five hospital sites in the second biggest trust in England have returned to direct trust employment as a result of the magnificent, united action of these strikers.