Outsourced security guards at the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London, UK, are in the midst of a protest demanding pay equality. As the guards were about to start a six-week strike on Tuesday, January 18, the GOSH board of trustees announced plans for a package with improved terms and conditions for the security guards who are employed by Carlisle Support Services. With the support of the trade union United Voices of the World (UVW), the guards had earlier announced their strike seeking equality with the in-house National Health Service (NHS) workers on sick pay, overtime, annual leave, enhanced maternity cover and pensions.
On Tuesday, UVW stated that the guards had decided to postpone the strike following the last minute announcement of the package. However, if the improved terms and conditions are not presented within the next two weeks, the strike will go ahead from February 3.
According to reports, the 33-member strong security squad at GOSH, one of the world’s leading hospitals in children’s care, is outsourced to Carlisle Support Services, owned by billionaire Tory donor Lord Ashcroft. These guards are paid less by thousands of pounds per year in maternity pay compared to in-house NHS workers. According to UVW, the outsourced guards are mostly from Black and ethnic minority and migrant backgrounds, and are denied rights enjoyed by their mainly white NHS colleagues.
Currently, the security guards at the hospital get just the statutory minimum as maternity pay – 90% of average earnings for the first six weeks and a maximum of £151.97 (USD 207.01) a week, while the in-house NHS workers receive eight weeks full maternity pay and 18 weeks of half maternity pay.
Earlier, a petition was started by GOSH security guard Erica Rasheed calling for equality in rights, pay and other benefits for the guards. As of January 19, the petition had been endorsed by 40,011 people. In the petition, Rasheed, who is now pregnant, stated that in seven months time, she will have her second child but she cannot afford to stay with her newborn longer than six weeks. “My NHS colleagues get to stay home for 5 months. They earn £2500 (USD 3,405.50) more during that time. From a woman’s perspective, this is what outsourcing looks like,” she said.
“Last year, when the world woke up to the realities of racism, bosses at the NHS made nice sounding pledges about how to address ‘structural racism’. We security guards are mostly Black and Brown migrants. Our colleagues in-housed at the NHS are mostly white. If you ever wanted an example of institutional racism, look no further,” she claimed.
On December 1 last year, a motion in support of the rights of GOSH security guards was tabled in the UK House of Commons. As of January 10, 22 MPs had supported the motion including Jeremy Corbyn, Andy McDonald, Nadia Whittome, Richard Burgon, among others.