NHS campaigning

Submitted by Anon on 22 October, 2006 - 5:00

Whipps Cross victory

by a unison member

After a ten year struggle, involving three rounds of strike action, a significant victory has been won for contracted out workers at Whipps Cross Hospital in East London. The group of mainly low paid ancillary workers involved are employed by Initial and include domestics, porters and switchboard staff at the hospital. Their low pay and poor conditions typified what has been called the two tier workforce. Outside of national agreements and bargaining they are amongst the staff who have been the victims of privatisation. As the private sector contractors seek to maximise profit from their contracts it is the pay and conditions of the workers which come under attack.

The significance of the victory is that for many years as contracting out has proceeded groups of workers lost to the private sector have also fallen out of union membership and activity. This dispute demonstrates that doesn’t need to be so.

Amongst the gains are pay increases from £5.52 per hour up to £7.47, including London Weighting. They'll now have full rights to sick pay and increased annual leave with a new minimum of 27 days. And those who work in excess of 37 hours a week will have a 37.5-hour week without of loss of pay.

The fundamentals of the award had been won in a dispute in 2003 but it has taken eight days of strike action over this summer to see it implemented. The determined work of the local branch is an excellent example to all.

Save Leeds Primary Care

Set up only a few weeks Leeds Save Primary Care Group staged a very successful lobby of the PCT’s consultation at the Civic Hall last week.

The current consultation by Leeds PCT over the future of four GP practices brings into the heart of the city’s health service the threat of privatisation. Leeds Save Primary Group had been set up to monitor the consultation exercise and argue for a continued commitment to a publicly owned, funded and controlled NHS. A coalition of health professionals and community activists Leeds SPG had been attending and petitioning most of the consultation meetings.

To date the official consultation process has attracted very few people to its public events. This in itself is cause for concern. The recent Appeal Court ruling on the case of North Derbyshire PCT and its failure to consult properly when awarding a contact to multinational United Healthcare has demonstrated the need for full and thorough consultation. Already the PCT has changed the nature of the consultations from the promised public meetings to drop in events. Such campaigns are important as its estimated that by the end of the year one third of PCTs across the country will be carrying out such consultations.

40 people attended this most recent event with banners and a big NHS symbol divided up into pieces labelled with the names of the private companies who are taking it over. After leafleting and petitioning the passers by and gaining some more support the Campaign then went and occupied the council chamber were the consultation was being held. The PCT staff were then able to see the level of support for a publicly controlled NHS and more people than at all their previous ‘consultations’ all at once.

The event gained publicity in the local press and on radio and the campaign looks likely to grow in strength as the consultation comes to an end and the focus turns onto the private sector bidders. The next meeting is due on Tuesday 24 October at 7.30pm at the Common Place. We’ll be looking through the final detail of our response to the consultation process and planning details of a public meeting in November

and building for the regional TUC demonstration in Leeds on Novemeber 11th.

Contact the campaign directly at

saveprimarycare@yahoogroups.com

Lobby against cuts

The 1 November march will assemble at 11.30am at Forum Magnum Square, London SE1 on London's South Bank.

It will go across Westminster Bridge, to join the lobby at parliament.

If you support this initiative, contact southwarkkonhsp@googlemail.com for more information and leaflets. Help build a mass turnout on 1 November by booking transport to both the march and the lobby.

Protest at

maternity cuts

The first week of October saw two protest actions against proposed cuts to services at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch. Worcestershire Acute Trust are proposing changes which could see that downgrading the axing of the Maternity, Paediatrics, and Gynaecology services. This would mean that expectant mothers and family members in the surrounding Redditch and Bromsgrove districts will have to travel to either Worcester or Birmingham to give birth and visit loved ones. On 4 October a 16,000 strong petition against the cuts was handed to hospital chiefs.

The next day hundreds of demonstrators braved the rain to protest outside the hospital. Unison supported and helped organise this demonstration called by the Save the Alex action group.

The protesters gathered to hear speakers including Tony Rabaiotti, Unison Senior Regional Officer before marching to the hospital where the trust board were due to meet. This was the last board meeting before the proposals go out to consultation later this month.

Staff at the hospital told the demonstrators that they were scared to come out to join the demo as they had been told to stay away and not to wear the Save the Alex campaign badges. Roger Mackenzie TUC Regional Secretary argued that it was unacceptable for staff to be intimidated in this way and asked the media to highlight what was happening.

Unison Regional Officer Ednal Hall:

“Our members at the Alex, Worcester Royal and Kidderminster Hospitals are worried about the affects the proposed changes will have on jobs and patient care. The current situation in Worcestershire is creating a clima te of fear and there has never been a more important time to campaign against cuts and job losses.”

The protesters were disappointed that the Trust did not make a public comment following the board meeting.

Unison will continue to campaign against the proposed cuts at the hospital and will be encouraging people to respond to proposals.

NHS activist

suspended

Around 100 trade unionists from the Unison, Amicus, PCS, UCU, NUT, T&G and GMB unions demonstrated outside the meeting room of Newcastle Trusts headquarters on Wednesday of last week. They were protesting at the suspension of NHS activist Yunus Bakhsh.

Hospital bosses know that to carry out New Labour’s NHS reforms and privatisation drive they must take on those who are fighting back. This is the reason for the solidarity with Yunus shown by so many different trade unionists.

Protest to chief executive Alan Hall, e-mail alan.hall@nmht.nhs.uk. Fax messages of support for Yunus to 0191 256 3171.

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