Barts NHS strike: ‘We fight together, no matter what’

Chris Moe-Leombe, senior unite rep at Newham General

We voted to strike because our terms and conditions of employment have been messed up by the Barts NHS Trust.

Barts Strikers on NSSN lobby of TUC
Barts Unite activists at the NSSN lobby of the TUC on
10 September. Photo: Socialist Party

There’s the issue of the lump sum. We transferred over from the private employer Serco into the NHS. Porters, security, domestics, catering, ward hosts. Some the departments have been given the £1,655 lump sum that was paid to NHS staff, but not all. They say it’s because of the 1 May 2023 date we transferred over, but we were all supposed to go over on the same date. The bosses decided to spread it out department by department. So departments that transferred earlier got the lump sum, but not domestics or catering as our transfer date was later.

That was their decision to do it departmentally, it shouldn’t affect anyone in their pay. In Covid, we worked our socks off, flat out, so that society could be taken care of. But now that’s been forgotten and we’re neglected. Covid didn’t select any department!

Unite has recruited a lot of new members, because in the Trust it’s the fighting union. Unite is growing at Newham, where we didn’t have so many members before. People are joining who were in another union that wasn’t fighting. Unite has a long record of fighting and won’t stop till we get what members deserve.

They try to divide and conquer, but we fight altogether, no matter what.

Gideon Boateng, Porters Unite rep at the Royal London

We’re still fighting on the 5% national pay offer. So there’s issues that affect all of us, and issues that affect some of us, but we’re all standing together.

All aspects of the contract we had with Serco have been turned upside down by the Trust management. So, for example, all staff, no matter how long their service, have been put on entry-level. Another issue is bank staff – they’re almost £5 an hour down on overtime. And there’s enhancements to pay that should be part of your sick pay and holiday pay, but are not being paid.

Huge 95% vote for strike action by Unite members at Barts Health Trust

by Len Hockey, Unite Barts Health branch secretary

August 30th 2023

Workers at Barts Health Trust hospitals, who are members of Unite, have voted overwhelmingly for strike action against the government’s imposed real-terms pay cut for health workers. This represents a decisive rejection of the Tories’ policy of running health services into the ground, and lays a marker for the upcoming pay round that workers will not countenance more attacks on wages and patient care.

Health workers at Barts hospital trust strike to demand a
pay rise and to be brought back in-house.
Photo: Isai Priya

One theatre member told me this week that since the 5% rise was put into workers’ wages in June, he was now taking home less money when factoring increases in pension contributions.

Former Serco workers, now returned to the trust following our landmark victory in 2022, are livid at the trust’s decision not to pay them the £1,655 lump-sum payment that other colleagues have received.

Quite rightly, these domestic and catering members, who made up the majority of ex-Serco staff, are asking why – when they were also exposed in the pandemic to Covid and suffered its effects – they are being denied this payment. My branch – unlike another union in the trust, which consulted its members on whether they were prepared to accept £725, less than half the amount – is demanding equality and the full lump-sum payment for our members.

Among other issues in the ballot was the trust’s failure to take length of service into consideration at the point of assimilation to an Agenda for Change (AFC) pay point. Also, their refusal to provide assurance in the review that they would not cut rates for workers employed on ‘bank’ terms (not on contracts). And the demand that these rates be uplifted in line with the national rates, so that workers undertaking extra hours or shifts as overtime get the AFC rates.

Additional issues include failure to increase pay for members on old terms and conditions (frozen AFC), and cuts to the branch secretary’s union facility time.

Unite members at Guys and St Thomas’ trust have already taken strike action and we will now be coordinating our campaign with them and members at the East London and Barking, Havering and Redbridge Trusts.

Barts Health workers prepare to strike

August 9th 2023

by Chris Newby, Tower Hamlets Socialist Party

Unite the Union members at Barts Health Trust organised a lively protest outside the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel, East London, as part of their campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote in their ballot for strike action, which is running until 22 August.

Royal London rally.

The workers, including porters and domestics, are fighting for an inflation-proof pay rise. But they are also angry at the Trust for reneging on parts of a deal secured after their strike last year, when they won these formerly privatised workers being brought back into direct NHS employment. Trust bosses have not paid all the workers the lump-sum payment made to NHS staff in 2022-23.

Supporting Barts Unite members on the protest were local trade unionists, community campaigners and Socialist Party members. Among the speakers were several members of the Unite branch taking part in the ballot, including branch secretary Len Hockey, and reps both long-standing and new. They all spoke of the importance of doing all they can to make sure there is the best possible ‘Yes’ vote in the ballot.

Len spoke of other successful Unite strike ballots that have taken place in other health trusts in London, including the mental health trust in East London, and the importance of linking up with the workers in those trusts for coordinated action. Socialist Party speakers also mentioned the importance of building an effective challenge to the Tories’ minimum service level law, and for unions to back genuine anti-austerity candidates at the next general election.

Rep at the Royal London, Ebrima Sonko, said:

“Thank you for your solidarity. This fight is just the beginning. Everything we are asking for, we deserve. We look after the patients and everybody. We were working during Covid. The lump sum has not been paid. They are trying to divide us by paying some and not others. But we refuse to be divided! This is a fight for all of us and we will make sure it is a fight we win!”

Barts Health workers prepare to fight

July 26th 2023

by Len Hockey, Unite Barts Health branch secretary

Over 1,000 health workers in East London employed by Barts NHS Trust are being balloted for strike action.

The Unite members, employed at hospitals including the Royal London, Whipps Cross and St Barts, are seeking an inflation-proofed pay rise for 2022-23, and action on the continuing failure to address the NHS staffing crisis by resolving the problems of recruitment and retention.

The workers include workers formerly employed by Serco, whose historic strike victory last year saw 1,800 of them return to direct NHS employment.

Other issues in the ballot include the trust’s refusal to pay the ‘Agenda for Change’ 2022 pay award lump sum, worth £1,655, to employees who transferred into the trust after 31 March 2023.

Impacted by this decision are domestics, back-of-house catering, and ward host workers who transferred in on 1 May and comprise the biggest number of the former Serco staff. It is unacceptable that our overwhelmingly female domestic and catering membership should be denied the lump-sum payment given to other colleagues.

Unite are also demanding the trust commits to increasing bank shift pay in line with the 2022-23 pay award, and the consideration of service length when assimilating workers to a pay band point.

The lie from Westminster politicians that the NHS can’t be fully funded, and that private sector profiteering in the service is necessary, is frequently pushed. The truth, however, is it’s a political choice the government has made to run down our NHS. £170 billion profit was made by the energy companies, a windfall tax of £50 billion on them would give every health worker in England an inflation-proof pay rise, with change left over!

  • The ballot opened on 11 July and runs till 22 August.
  • Unite trust-employed members in Bart’s Health branch not in receipt of a ballot paper are urged to call Unite on 0208 596 9966.