Hundreds of workers at NHS hospitals in London including porters, cleaners and catering staff are to go on strike from Monday in a dispute over pay.
The staff employed by the outsourcing company Serco at St Bartholomew’s, the Royal London and Whipps Cross are walking out for two weeks.
They are members of the Unite union, which claims that mainly black, Asian and ethnic minority staff are paid up to 15% less than directly employed NHS workers.
Sharon Graham, Unite’s general secretary, said: “The NHS workers taking strike action have their union’s unwavering support. They face the same risks as NHS-employed staff. Why on earth are they being paid significantly worse while being treated disgracefully?
“It’s time to end this injustice. It’s time to bring these workers, employed by Serco not the NHS, back into NHS employment.”
Rallies are planned outside the Royal London hospital on Monday and later in the week at Barts and Whipps Cross.
Peter Kavanagh, a regional secretary for Unite, said: “Our members have worked tirelessly through the pandemic, they deserve better. Serco and Barts need to deliver a pay increase that addresses the poor pay and the inequality of treatment compared to directly employed NHS staff at other hospitals in London.”
Shane DeGaris, the deputy group chief executive at Barts Health NHS trust, said the trust would be considering future arrangements of the facilities management contract over the next 13 months, and that this could include bringing some services back in-house.
He added: “We are hopeful that this matter can be resolved but are working with Serco to put the appropriate measures in place and ensure hospital services are supported if strike action does go ahead.”
Taddy McAuley, Serco’s contract director for Barts Health, said the company hoped to work with Unite to avoid the “unnecessary” action.
“We are extremely disappointed with the notification of strike action from Unite as we recently increased the pay offer for our employees to a total of 3%, backdated to April 2021,” he said. “This is the same percentage increase as that being received by people directly employed by the NHS.
“Serco also recently announced a £100 ex gratia payment for all of our 52,000 frontline employees around the world, including all our colleagues at Barts Health.”
Meanwhile, families planning half-term getaways face having their travel plans disrupted by a three-day strike by baggage handlers and aircraft refuellers at Heathrow airport.
About 400 Unite members employed by Menzies Aviation will begin their walkout at 00.01am on 11 February, resuming work on 14 February. Unite says the company is refusing to enter into negotiations about a pay rise after firing and rehiring hundreds of workers during the pandemic.
Menzies said it was disappointed by the action and hopeful that an amicable solution could be reached at a meeting with Unite scheduled for Monday. It also expressed confidence there would be no disruption to travellers should the strike go ahead.