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Staff at four London hospitals gathered in pickets on Wednesday morning as they launched a major cleaner’s strike.
Hundreds of cleaners, porters, catering and security staff, employed by Serco on between £9.75 and £10.80 per hour, are insisting on a 30p wage increase to keep pace with the increasing costs of living in the capital.
Serco has pledged that services at Whipps Cross University Hospital, the Royal London, St Bartholomew’s Hospital and Mile End Hospital will not be hit despite the walkout of several hundred staff on Tuesday.
However activists tweeted images of dirty toilets at Mile End Hospital on Wednesday.
Domestic workers, whose jobs entail keeping hospitals clean as well as feeding patients and moving beds, say that since Serco won a £600 million contract with Barts Health NHS Trust last year, they have been harder pressed while wages have stagnated.
Worker Margaret Acheampomaa wrote for the Independent that cleaners are now expected to perform 57 tasks per shift from mopping to high dusting, while colleagues began to suffer tendonitis, aching joints and ganglion cysts.
“I have frequently seen colleagues, grown men and women, break down into tears,” she wrote.
Unite national officer Colenzo Jarret-Thorpe said: “Low paid workers who keep our hospitals clean, safe and running smoothly are not prepared to get poorer while the multimillion pound privateer Serco rakes in millions.
“Unite members working for Serco at Barts are refusing to accept one per cent after seeing their real living standards drop year on year.”
Mr Jarret-Thorpe said: “Workers regularly report getting home late, tired and sore from the intense workload heaped on them by Serco – they deserve better treatment and better pay. We urge Serco to get around the negotiating table and resolve this dispute.”
Serco won the £600 million soft services contract for Barts last year. The firm made a profit of £82 million in 2016 across its global business.
The firm insists it wants to pay workers fairly, but it has blocked further increases of 30 per hour.
Phil Mitchell, Serco contracts director, said: “We agreed with the Trust that all our staff would be paid at least the London living wage of £9.75 per hour from day one of our contract, resulting in an average increase in pay of 3.5 per cent for over 100 permanent staff.
“For those staff on higher salaries, we have protected all their terms and conditions and offered a pay increase for this year which is in line with NHS colleagues.
“We have robust plans in place to ensure we are continuing to support the Trust’s hospitals to care for patients as normal during Unite’s action.”
Staff took part in a three-day strike last week that disrupted hospital services as toilets reportedly went uncleaned and beds were left on floors.
The current strike is planned to last until next Tuesday morning, but staff have warned that they will stage a further 14-day stoppage starting on July 25 with further strike action planned for August and September.
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