Victory for Unite members at Barts NHS Trust!

Unite members at Barts NHS Trust in east London have won their hard-fought battle for the Covid bonus they were owed.

Nearly 700 workers, including domestics, porters and catering staff, were forced to fight, just to win the Covid bonus payment paid to other NHS staff. They had previously won a massive victory when, following determined strike action, they were brought back inhouse from private employer Serco. But then the NHS bosses refused to pay them the Covid bonus.

Health Workers on strike at Barts Hospital
Health workers striking at Barts hospital trust for pay rises.
Photo: London SP

But months of vibrant campaigning involving strikes, protests and demonstrations forced the trust bosses into a new offer, which members have voted to accept. They will receive additional ‘special leave’ to the equivalent value of the lump-sum payment.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This is a brilliant and incredibly hard-fought victory that our members should be incredibly proud of.”

Unite has also fought for members at a private laundry company within Barts called Synergy, and their employer has agreed to a cash payment.

Socialist Party member Len Hockey, the secretary of Unite at Barts, said:

“This represents a massive win for hundreds of our lowest-paid members in one of the biggest trusts in England. This result shows clearly that striking gets results!

“It is an emphatic answer to those who argued we could not succeed, and that workers would have to accept inequality and discrimination. This victory is a beacon to others inside and outside of this trust, showing the power of collective trade union action.”

Barts NHS strikers say ‘pay up!’

On 13 May, over 100 low-paid striking NHS workers protested outside NHS England offices in south London. It was the first day in a week of pickets and protests, part of the latest phase of strike action in the long-running dispute with Barts NHS Trust and contractor Synergy.

Barts Strikers say Pay Up.
Barts strike. Photo: London SP

Workers were greeted by security guards who, within moments, were surrounded by women strikers and a cacophony of vuvuzelas. Speaking to the protest, NSSN Chair Rob Williams asked the bosses inside: “Rather than sending down security guards, why don’t you just come down and talk to the union and sort out paying up, sort out this dispute?”

The workers, Unite members, are demanding the £1,600 lump-sum payment that other NHS workers, their colleagues, received during Covid but which they have been denied.

The workers are targeting NHS bosses, protesting outside their workplaces and offices. This include chair of Barts NHS Trust, and former Labour Home Secretary under Gordon Brown, Jacqui Smith.

Speaking to the protest, Unite lead officer Onay Kasab said: “Your employers are not happy, because having their faces on placards is ‘not in the spirit of things’.

“It’s not in the spirit of things to deny £1,600 from low-paid workers. There is no legal reason why you cannot be paid. It comes down to the will, it comes down to a political choice. We are making the choice to fight and we have the will to win. We are deciding we are going to carry on until we win!”

Barts hospital workers launch Spring strike campaign over pay

by Kevin Parslow, Waltham Forest Socialist Party

Barts Unite strike at Whipps Cross
Barts Unite strike at Whipps Cross.
Photo: Martin Reynolds

“I’m fed up hearing excuses from trust management about why they can’t pay us the lump sum pay increase,” said Len Hockey, secretary of Unite Barts branch, as he launched what he called their ‘Spring campaign’ of action at Whipps Cross Hospital in East London. Having successfully reballoted for strikes and received increased and massive majorities, workers were buoyed by the news that workers in Dudley, East Kent and the South West had won the award. But they were frustrated at why the trust will not recognise them as eligible for the pay rise when they no longer work for privatiser SERCO. Members employed by Synergy in laundry services are also out.

Unite members first came out last summer and are determined to win. Workers at Royal London and Barts hospitals are also striking.

As well as pickets, a series of rallies and protests will be taking place to put pressure on management and the Department of Health to pay up.

Barts NHS workers strike again: ‘Standing up for pay equality’

Unite members at Barts Health Trust in East London have voted in a reballot to continue strike action for the Covid lump sum they have been denied. In 2022, these workers fought successfully to be brought back into the NHS from private sector employers, and they demand to be treated the same as other NHS employees.

Arshad Ahmad, Unite health and safety rep at Whipps Cross Hospital, part of the Trust, spoke to the Socialist.

I extend my heartfelt congratulations to all Unite members at Barts Trust for the resounding success in voting for industrial strike action and achieving a remarkable 98.11% ‘yes’ vote. Our dedication and unity in standing up for pay equality, justice, safer staffing levels, and fair treatment is truly commendable.

Barts Unite strikers. Photo: Paula Mitchell

It is evident that our commitment to putting patients first is unwavering. Our hard work and sacrifices during the pandemic showcase our dedication to providing the best care for patients. It is unacceptable that we feel victimised, discriminated against, and have not received the recognition and support we deserve — especially those in the departments of portering, domestic, security and catering who did not receive the lump sum during the pandemic.

The disparities and inequalities we have faced are unjust and must be addressed. Our demands for safer staffing levels, fair treatment, and equality in the workplace are not only justified but essential for creating a supportive and equitable work environment.

I would also like to extend my congratulations to the Unite members in the West Midlands Dudley hospitals for their successful campaign. Their dedication and determination are setting a powerful example for all of us.

As we continue our strike for justice and fair treatment, our voices are strong. Together, we will make a difference, and our demands will not go unheard.

Stay united, stay strong, and continue to fight for what we deserve!