Cleaners at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) have had enough of being outsourced and are demanding to be made direct employees of the NHS.
They have long known that their work is essential to the running of GOSH and that without them the clinicians at GOSH could not do the amazing work that they do, but this is also why they are angry.
They recognise that if their work is essential to the running of the hospital – as is the work of any cleaner in any NHS hospital – the least they deserve is the same levels of pay and T&Cs as other NHS workers.
Most of these workers are Black, Brown, Asian and migrant and are deeply unhappy with a situation which sees them consciously paid less than their White in-house colleagues of a similar grade and denied NHS T&Cs such as full pay sick pay.
In all the conversations which have taken place between United Voices of the World (UVW) and the workers, one consistent message has rung home, these workers don’t see themselves as “just cleaners”.
They care just as much about the patients as the doctors and nurses and they know, as does UVW, that in-housing is the best option when it comes to ensuring patients get the best possible care.
In our 45-page claim submitted this week to GOSH CEO Dr Matthew Shaw, which you can read here, UVW has shown that in-housing is not only the best form of service delivery when it comes to patient outcomes, but also financially and in terms of maintaining healthy industrial relations.
The last thing these workers want to do is go on strike. They would much rather be able to get on with their work and to be on contracts with levels of pay and T&Cs which reflect the real value of that work.
But they can no longer stand aside whilst being discriminated against. UVW sincerely hopes that GOSH will receive the submission of our claim with an open mind and with a view to working productively with us to ensure patients and staff get the best possible deal.
The tide is turning against outsourcing in the NHS and we very much hope GOSH will be on the right side of history. But if these workers must, they will go on strike, something they recently confirmed when they voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action during a consultative ballot.
However, we hope that this can be avoided and that GOSH will work with UVW and be on the right side of history.
This article was written by Petros Elia, from United Voices of the World, which is a trade union representing largely migrant workers in low-paid jobs.