St Mary’s Hospital staff strike over pay in demand of the London Living Wage

BY OWEN SHEPPARD
Local Democracy Reporter
yann@slpmedia.co.uk

Police were called to St Mary’s Hospital A&E where cleaners and porters were on strike to demand higher wages and improved benefits.

More than 150 workers took part in the walk-out on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week.

The United Voices of the World trade union, which organised the strike, called it “one of the longest strikes in NHS history”.

The workers, who are employed by French outsourcing company Sodexo, are demanding the London Living Wage.

They banged drums, blew whistles and sang and danced outside the hospital wards in South Wharf Road, Paddington.

The Met attended at 5.30pm on Thursday after hospital bosses said the protests had caused “noise and disruption”. Four officers attended and no arrests were made.

Loreta Younsi, 44, a cleaning supervisor and mother-of-three, said: “We want equality with staff who are hired directly by the hospital.

“We get only 20 days of annual leave and we want more than just Statutory Sick Pay [£94 per week]. As a supervisor I’m on £9.82 per hour, but most cleaners are on only £8.21.”

A statement from the trade union said the cleaners’ low sick pay was “forcing them to work on wards when ill — sometimes with contagious illnesses such as the flu — as they cannot afford to take time off when sick”.

Ms Younsi, who has worked at St Mary’s for 12 years and commutes from Walthamstow in north-east London, added: “The majority of us can only afford to live in Zone 4.

“Some people are working 60 hours a week to make sure we get food and pay the bills, and it’s getting worse and worse.”

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, will replace Sodexo with a new company when the current contract ends in April next year.

It has pledged to find a company that will pay staff the London Living Wage — currently £10.55 per hour.

Professor Tim Orchard, the trust’s chief executive, said: “I would like to thank everyone at St Mary’s for their patience during the industrial action by some of our Sodexo-employed staff this week.

I would also like to apologise for the noise and disruption caused by the picket action.

While it has been largely good-natured, it is having an impact on patients, visitors and staff.

“We are due to announce who has been awarded the contract shortly and it will take effect in April.

Meanwhile, we are continuing to explore with Sodexo and our trade union partners improvements to pay that can be introduced sooner than April 2020.”

A Sodexo spokesman said: “We have been working with our people and recognised trade unions to address their concerns.

“We are disappointed that some staff have voted to take industrial action. We remain open to negotiation and arbitration.

“It has already been agreed that the new facilities management contract at Imperial NHS Trust will pay the London living wage as the minimum pay rate from April 2020.”

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