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Cleaners are suing Great Ormond Street Hospital over alleged racist pay

A cleaner walking down a corridor

Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) cleaners from racialised minority backgrounds are taking their employer to court claiming indirect racial discrimination over pay inequality. A group of 83 GOSH cleaners are claiming indirect racial discrimination within the NHS

A dispute over pay and conditions

The United Voices of the World (UVW) union is supporting the group of mostly Black, Brown and migrant workers. The litigation comes after GOSH cleaners won a case against their outsourcing in 2021. The workers originally worked for private contractor OCS Group UK. The case forced GOSH to bring its cleaners’ contracts in-house.

But the group alleges that GOSH is still not giving them the same pay and benefits as other NHS workers, who are predominantly white.

Memuna Kabia, a cleaner for GOSH and a UVW member said:

GOSH has been robbing us for a long time, and finding excuses not to treat us fairly. They are meant to look after us, but they left us in the hands of private companies who bullied us and denied us our right to NHS pay and other benefits. GOSH knew about it and did nothing. So we need to take them to court to get justice.

Institutional racism

In 2021, UVW supported outsourced Royal Park attendants in a similar case. In a landmark judgement, an employment tribunal ruled that the Royal Park’s outsourcing of contracts was unlawful as it amounted to indirect race discrimination.

The litigating GOSH cleaners are demanding the same pay and conditions as other NHS staff. They also seek compensation for the years spent working under inferior private contracts.

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UVW general secretary Petros Elia said:

This lawsuit will be a permanent stain on the already tarnished reputation of GOSH. And it should also send a strong message to other NHS Trusts out there, that if you outsource your facilities workers and don’t give them NHS contracts, then we’ll be coming for you in the courts and on the picket line.

GOSH security guards – who are gearing up to strike – are also considering bringing the same legal claim against their employer on the grounds that their outsourcing is race discrimination. 

GOSH responds

Addressing the claims, a spokesperson for Great Ormond Street Hospital told The Canary:

Our cleaning and domestic services colleagues are valued members of our team and we welcomed them directly into NHS employment in August 2021. Since then, we have been working to bring the multiple sets of terms and conditions of this team in line with NHS frameworks. All staff, irrespective of role, are on NHS contracts.

They added:

On transfer we aligned sick pay, maternity and paternity pay, holiday pay and provided access to the NHS pension scheme. All staff also received a 3% pay rise, with the lowest paid staff receiving an extra 4%, to ensure alignment with their NHS counterparts. In line with other NHS staff, all staff are on standardised pay rates based on role.

They concluded:

This has been a complex process because staff had so many different contractual agreements which were protected by law on transfer. These have to be unpicked carefully to ensure no-one is accidently disadvantaged. We are committed to full-scale harmonisation of terms and conditions across all areas and continue to work towards this in partnership with the domestic services.

Anyone looking to support the litigating cleaners can sign their petition or send a letter to GOSH trustees. People can also sign up to join the campaign in solidarity.

Featured image via Ashwini Chaudhary/Unsplash

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