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St Mary’s hospital outsourced staff on strike to become NHS employees

Over 200 outsourced workers are currently on strike

Cleaners, porters and caterers outsourced by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to private firm Sodexo have suspended work. They are demanding to be seen as NHS employees on Agenda for Change contracts. Imperial College students have been joining them on the picket line to show their support.

Petros Elia, a United Voices of the World representative, described that by relying on outsourcing workers, the NHS is establishing “a two-tiered, racially divided workforce,” as migrant outsourced staff receive fewer benefits and worse pay than NHS employees.

One striking worker explained her reasons for walking out; “I work 55 hours a week just to cover my rent. St. Mary’s is my home, I spend more time here than in my house. Yet I am treated like a dog and made to feel like dirt."

This strike is the fourth walk-out at St Mary’s Hospital, whose staff have been striking since late October. Their most crucial demand, to be employed as official NHS employees, has not yet been met.

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This industrial action has, however, led to some important victories. Kane Shaw, another Union representative, told the London Tab; “our members have won a Trust wide pay-rise for all cleaners, caterers and porters outsourced to Sodexo … now they are paid the London Living Wage of £10.55 an hour.” According to Kane Shaw, originally outsourced workers were earning only between £6.16 and £8.21 hourly.

The strikers have also been granted improved changing facilities, spare uniforms and the implementation of a fairer annual leave system.

Imperial College London students have pledged their solidarity for the striking workers, and many are supporting the strikers on the picket line. Kane Shaw told the London Tab that “on top of this, some students have participated in direct action; specifically, the silent occupation of the main entrance at St. Mary's and the recent disruption of the Trust's board meeting.”

This most recent peaceful disruption of the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has led to Tim Orchard, CEO of the Trust, to commit to providing a date by which time the Trust will decide whether to grant the final demand of the striking outsourced workers, before April 2020.

Additional reporting by Gemma Ross.