Staff employed by the private company, Serco, are on strike at four London hospitals demanding an end to the poverty pay that has left some relying on food banks and unable to pay their rent.
Serco won the £600 million soft services contract for Barts Health NHS Trust last year, making huge profits from the NHS, yet they’re refusing to pay their staff a living wage despite the fact that their chief executive earns over £1 million a year.
Talks were held last week between the staff’s representatives at Unite the Union and Serco. However, the Serco management refused to give the modest pay rise of 30p an hour that the workers need to help them survive in London.
As a result the staff were left with no choice but to go on strike.
Unite the Union added that at Whipps Cross Hospital, Serco are planning to cut some of the cleaning staff and force the remaining staff to take on extra work to cover for the loss of their colleagues. This was another factor motivating workers to take industrial action.
The privatisation of services, such as cleaning within the NHS, started decades ago as services previously run not-for-profit by the public sector were handed to private companies.
This has often lead not only to staff having to endure poor working conditions but the actual services that the patients require getting worse.
Government ministers often claim that raising pay is impossible due to the current economic conditions. Yet, Serco Group PLC are listed on the London Stock Exchange and are a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.
The truth is, there is more than enough money to pay all hospital staff a living wage, but too much of it goes on profits for the likes of Serco and too little to the people who do the work to keep the hospitals running.