Security guards at St. George’s University an NHS school of medicine, outsourced to the multinational contractor Noonan, are victims of a two-tier workforce which has seen them severely overworked and disrespected. In addition, their terms and conditions remain on the pernicious statutory minimums, whilst university staff enjoy generous holiday allowances, pensions and sick pay schemes.
Yesterday the Morning Star reported,
The mainly black, Asian and minority-ethnic (BAME) workers are demanding equal treatment over pay, holidays and pensions. But the Metropolitan Police attended the picket line yesterday morning in an attempt to remove protesters from NHS grounds and arrested barrister Franck Magennis, the head of the union’s legal department. UVW warned that the incident “marks a potential watershed in industrial relations and could set a dangerous precedent for the erosion of civil liberties and workers’ rights if left unchallenged.”
Despite this, many more people attended the picket line today regardless, and members of Keep Our NHS Public were prominent in showing their support for the industrial action.
We interviewed one of the strikers on today's picket line at St George's and asked why they had come out, you can watch the video here:
According to United Voices of the World union's own press statement, 'The prestigious medical school of St. George’s, University of London, found itself embroiled in controversy today, after a barrister and trade union official was unlawfully arrested on a picket line during an industrial dispute over the role of outsourcing at the university', they went on to say,
The independent trade union United Voices of the World (UVW), who organised the industrial action, has said that the arrest marks a potential watershed in industrial relations and could set a dangerous precedent for the erosion of civil liberties and workers’ rights if left unchallenged. The incident, which took place shortly after 9am, saw 12 police officers arrive at the university after being called by management to dispel workers and trade union officials from a lawful picket. In a series of highly irregular events that has seen the Metropolitan Police become the subject of legal action, police officers swiftly issued workers and union officials with a letter from the University claiming that the picket needed to take place outside of NHS property. Several police officers then warned all workers and union officials that they would be arrested if they failed to leave the property within five minutes.
Co-Chair of Keep Our NHS Public, Tony O'Sullivan, who was present on today's picket said,
I brought solidarity from Keep Our NHS Public and Health Campaigns Together to the striking security guards at St George’s University London Medical School, on the hospital campus in Tooting. For the second day, the police were called by SGUL to the United Voices of the World union picket line. They threatened to arrest every picketer and supporter, having arrested and then released with apology UVW’s legal representative on Day 1.
The simple demands are that SGUL talk to the union and enter negotiations to end the discriminatory and unequal treatment of these outsourced workers, who protect the site and medical students, our doctors of the future, 24/7 365 days a year, with wholly unfair sick pay, inadequate holidays and unequal pay and conditions. Support from KONP’s NHS Staff Voices, Wandsworth and Save Lewisham Hospital were there.
Keep Our NHS Public believes, that contracting out services fragments the workforce, and runs counter to the professed NHS ambition of greater integration for safe, efficient and effective services.
Experience with similar contracts for the past 36 years is that private contractors are unattractive as employers, struggle to recruit and retain staff, and tend to operate for prolonged periods on inadequate staffing levels, exploiting loopholes in specifications and the reluctance of trust boards to invoke penalty clauses or terminate contracts.
Keep Our NHS Public will continue to support these striking workers and recognises in the new political climate, that support for NHS and related workers will likely become a key focus of our activity.
You can find out more about upcoming strike actions on our events page here.