The cleaning and sanitation workers employed by the contractor Mitie Group at St. George’s Hospital in South London are gearing up for more strike actions. Under the leadership of the GMB union, the outsourced workers already went on a three-day starting May 30 and a week-long strike from June 20 demanding withheld pay and better contract terms from their employer, Mitie Group PLC. The union has announced that the contract workers will go on strike again on July 17, 20, 21, 23 and 24, Morning Star reported. The workers have also called on the National Health Service (NHS) trust to intervene in the discussions between GMB and Mitie to resolve the crisis.
According to reports, the Mitie Group acquired telecom company 8point8 for £10 million (USD 12.04 million) as part of its strategy to build a leading telecom support services company. Following the acquisition, Mitie restructured pay cycles and withheld the wages of the contract workers for seven weeks, affecting the workers at St. George’s Hospital.
According to GMB organizer Helen O’Connor, “GMB members are furious as Mitie has spent millions on taking over a new company whilst their own wages, terms and conditions are being driven into the floor. Their hard work has secured the contract for Mitie in St George’s hospital but all they experience is pay shortfalls and disruption.”
“These workers have served the hospital throughout the pandemic at great risk to themselves and they care about their work and the patients. Our members want compensation for the hardship and suffering that Mitie has put them through by withholding wages and they want to all be on NHS contracts and have fair and equal terms and conditions,” she added.
Mick Lynch, General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), visited the protesting workers at St. George’s Hospital on June 26 and expressed his solidarity. During the visit, Lynch spoke of the importance of unions working together to organize contract workers, and stated that companies like Mitie are “like bandits” whose focus is “not just about the money but driving down services and driving profits up.”
Earlier, cleaners at the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London had won NHS contracts following agitations led by the United Voices of the World (UVW) union. UVW also expressed solidarity with GMB and the outsourced workers at St George’s Hospital in their fight for dignity.