Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Whipps Cross workers to strike over poor pay and conditions

Porters, cleaners and other frontline staff may strike in January over low pay

Hero for Whipps Cross workers to strike over poor pay and conditions
Whipps Cross Hospital (credit: James Cracknell)
By Victoria Munro 10 December 2021

Whipps Cross staff employed by an outsourcing company are threatening to strike next month over low pay.Whipps Cross staff employed by an outsourcing company are threatening to strike next month over low pay.

Hundreds of NHS workers, such as porters and cleaners, at Whipps Cross Hospital and others run by Barts Health NHS Trust are protesting their treatment by employer Serco.Hundreds of NHS workers, such as porters and cleaners, at Whipps Cross Hospital and others run by Barts Health NHS Trust are protesting their treatment by employer Serco.

Those employed by Serco Group PLC are paid up to 15% less than their colleagues directly employed by the NHS, according to the Unite union. Those employed by Serco Group PLC are paid up to 15% less than their colleagues directly employed by the NHS, according to the Unite union.

Unite called this an "insult" to workers who risked their lives in the pandemic and insist they are prepared to strike next month unless an agreement is reached.Unite called this an "insult" to workers who risked their lives in the pandemic and insist they are prepared to strike next month unless an agreement is reached.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham said: “It’s time to take note of the strength of feeling of these NHS workers, who are being left in limbo as Barts and Serco prevaricate and pass the buck on their demands for a decent wage. Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham said: “It’s time to take note of the strength of feeling of these NHS workers, who are being left in limbo as Barts and Serco prevaricate and pass the buck on their demands for a decent wage.

"Unite will be unwavering in our support of these union members and unless Barts and Serco put an end to their low pay and exploitation there will be strike action in January.”"Unite will be unwavering in our support of these union members and unless Barts and Serco put an end to their low pay and exploitation there will be strike action in January.”

Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed added: "Barts Health NHS Trust need to bring these workers back in-house. Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed added: "Barts Health NHS Trust need to bring these workers back in-house.

"Serco workers are exposed to the same risks as NHS-employed staff but they are paid much less and treated disgracefully." "Serco workers are exposed to the same risks as NHS-employed staff but they are paid much less and treated disgracefully."

The deputy group chief executive at Barts Health, Shane DeGaris, responded that the trust will be "considering future arrangements" of the contract, which "could include bringing some services back in-house".The deputy group chief executive at Barts Health, Shane DeGaris, responded that the trust will be "considering future arrangements" of the contract, which "could include bringing some services back in-house".

He added: "We will be working with Serco to put the appropriate measures in place and ensure hospital services are supported during any strike action. We are working hard with Serco to see if strike action can be avoided."He added: "We will be working with Serco to put the appropriate measures in place and ensure hospital services are supported during any strike action. We are working hard with Serco to see if strike action can be avoided."

Taddy McAuley, Serco’s contract director for Barts Health, said the company was "disappointed" with Unite's decision to strike.Taddy McAuley, Serco’s contract director for Barts Health, said the company was "disappointed" with Unite's decision to strike.

He added: "The terms of our contract with the trust allow for the payment of the London Living Wage which was agreed with both the trust and the unions at the start of the contract. He added: "The terms of our contract with the trust allow for the payment of the London Living Wage which was agreed with both the trust and the unions at the start of the contract.

"We value the important work of all our front line employees which is why Serco also recently announced a £100 ex-gratia payment to all of our 52,000 front line staff around the world, including all our colleagues at Barts Health.”"We value the important work of all our front line employees which is why Serco also recently announced a £100 ex-gratia payment to all of our 52,000 front line staff around the world, including all our colleagues at Barts Health.”