Radical trade union the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain declared a victory on 21 November. The union said that cleaners, catering and housekeeping staff at the private London Bridge Hospital have had success in their campaign against unequal conditions for outsourced workers.
The union tweeted:
BREAKING: Cleaners at the privately owned London Bridge Hospital have won an end to exploitative outsourcing.
After months of organising, campaigning and protesting, cleaners will be being brought in house next April.https://t.co/bdOl7fjQ7f
— IWGB (@IWGBunion) November 21, 2022
Victory against outsourcing
London Bridge Hospital is run by Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), which is the world’s largest private healthcare company. The US healthcare giant began operating in the UK in the 1990s. It now runs 30 health facilities here, including private hospitals. The company is pushing privatisation in both the US and the UK. HCA and its shareholders have made donations to both the Conservative Party and to Labour leader Keir Starmer. Meanwhile, in the US, the company also has a track record of connections to pro-privatisation politicians.
The cleaners – who are mostly migrant workers – have been holding protests and organising against London Bridge Hospital’s unequal treatment of its outsourced staff, who are employed by multinational company Compass. These workers are paid significantly less than those directly employed by HCA.
The union said that the move comes after whistleblowing by workers and multiple demonstrations outside HCA offices. Bosses have informed workers that outsourced staff will be moved in-house from 1 April 2023.
“A big step”
Marino, who is an outsourced cleaner at the hospital, said that the move is “a big step”:
Despite risking our lives during the pandemic, we were treated like second-class citizens. We were forced to take on extra work and faced bad management from subcontractors who refused to listen to our safety concerns. Moving in-house is a big step forward in improving our working conditions and we expect HCA to give us the same terms and conditions as our colleagues.
But with the rising cost of living, we are still struggling to support ourselves. We want to build a future for our families, so we will continue to organise and fight for the pay we deserve.
An inspiration for other outsourced workers
Henry Chango Lopez, the general secretary of the IWGB, emphasised the importance of the cleaners’ victory for other outsourced workers in the UK:
By coming together and campaigning for an end to this injustice, they have shown outsourced workers across the UK that workers have the power to bring an end to the scourge of outsourcing. We expect HCA to ensure that workers receive the same pay and conditions as directly employed workers.
The campaign has already won the workers an increase in wages earlier this year, from £9.69 an hour to £10.50 an hour. However this is still well below the London Living Wage, so workers are continuing to organise and are demanding £12.50 an hour and full sick pay.
The IWGB is calling for people to join their ‘solidarity squad’ to support workers’ future actions for better pay and conditions.
Featured image via IWGB (with permission)
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