Great Ormond Street cleaners’ pay victory

‘Best Christmas gift ever’ after workers at top children’s hospital threatened to take strike action over NHS employment dispute

Monday, 14th December 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

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Great Ormond Street Hospital workers celebrate

CLEANERS at the country’s top children’s hospital, who have won a campaign to be given the same pay as NHS colleagues, say the victory is “the best Christmas gift ever”.

As reported in the Extra a fortnight ago, domestic staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital had threatened industrial action if demands for equal conditions and pay were not met.

The United Voices of the World union had attempted to negotiate with the hospital but managers had denied responsibility for the workers, who are contracted to cleaning firm OCS.

UVW members had voted overwhelmingly in favour of a potential walk-out and this week the NHS trust announced it was bringing the cleaners back “in-house”.

The cleaners will now be brought under direct employment of the NHS from next August when the hospital’s contract with OCS ends.

Evelyn, who has worked at GOSH for 11 years, said: “It is a great joy for my colleagues and me to become NHS staff. We now have protection, freedom, solidarity, and respect.”

Another cleaner, Genevieve, said: “It is the best thing that has happened to me. Now we will no longer have to come to work when we are sick.”

The cleaners, almost all of whom are black, Asian or ethnic minority, with many being migrant workers, joined the union at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic complaining of “years of discrimination and disrespect”, being overworked and left without adequate equipment and uniforms.

UVW, which was set up in 2014, represents mainly migrant cleaners and workers in other service or low-wage and outsourced industries. It believes outsourcing is wrong and amounts to “racial discrimination”.

GOSH is now the second NHS Trust this year to cave to the union’s pressure after St Mary’s in Paddington agreed to bring its cleaners in-house following a number of organised protests.

Petros Elia, UVW co-founder and organiser said: “This victory is historic. It shows, firstly, that workers united with a union ready to back them really can move mountains. It also shows what we have known all along, that outsourcing is a choice, and one grounded in Thatcherite ideology, and that as easily as the NHS and other public institutions outsourced thousands of workers at the stroke of a pen 30-odd years ago, so too can they now choose to in-house them at the click of a mouse.”

GOSH estates chief Zoe Asensio-Sanchez said: “We’re pleased to announce this decision to bring our cleaning services in-house. We’ll be working closely with our OCS colleagues and the recognised trade unions to make this transition as smooth as possible. We’ll share more details with all of our staff, including colleagues whose services continue to be outsourced, in due course.

“We will keep our outsourced services under review to ensure we spend money wisely and deliver quality services in line with our values.”

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