Whipps Cross cleaners, caterers and laundry staff to strike over Christmas

Unite has warned people to expect ‘significant disruption’ to Whipps Cross’ catering, cleaning and facilities maintenance over the festive period as it escalates its pay dispute with Barts Health Trust

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Caterers, porters, cleaning, and laundry workers at Whipps Cross will be on strike over the Christmas period, Unite the union has confirmed.

Unite is set to ramp up its ongoing dispute with Barts Health NHS Trust over “unsafe” staffing levels and inadequate pay. Barts Health manages Whipps Cross Hospital along with six other London hospitals.

Synergy staff will be taking strike action between 18th – 26th December, while NHS facilities staff will strike between 18th – 22nd December and Christmas Day (25th December) and Boxing Day (26th December).

Synergy is an outsourced company providing linen and laundry services to the NHS. In autumn, Synergy staff at Barts joined doctors and consultants on strike.

Additional staff from the East and South East London pathology partnership, who work in haematology, biochemistry, and blood transfusion laboratories at Whipps Cross, are also joining the dispute. Unite says their action comes “due to anger over an imposed restructure that [staff] believe will put patient safety at risk”.

In October, it was revealed that Barts Health will join with Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals trust (BHRUT) to become “one group” called Barts NHS Group. The trusts are set to merge into one executive board by April 2025.

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The strike action is being organised by Unite. Over 1,000 workers at the trust are in dispute over pay, safe staffing levels, bank rates and lump-sum payments. Unite says that workers are experiencing staff shortages which threaten patient safety and the welfare of staff.

The latest strikes include Christmas Day and Boxing Day and will cause significant disruption to catering, portering, cleaning and facilities maintenance over the festive period.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Barts could easily end this dispute but it is refusing to agree to Unite’s reasonable demands. Our NHS members are fighting for fair pay and to put an end to dangerously low levels of staffing.

“It is an outrage that our members at Barts, who are some of the lowest paid staff in the NHS and who are struggling during this cost of living crisis, have been denied the lump-sum payment they are entitled to.”

Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed said: “Unite is determined to use every avenue to win this campaign. Alongside industrial action, Unite is also considering possible legal avenues and where a case exists, the union will not hesitate to use it.

“Barts could end this dispute today if it came back to the negotiating table to engage in meaningful discussions to resolve these issues. The forthcoming strike action will cause disruption, delays and cancellations at the affected hospitals. The NHS, however, is in crisis every day due to chronic staffing shortages which are exacerbated by low pay.”

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