On Tuesday I was in Harlow to meet UNISON members at the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) fighting to stay in our NHS. These women, domestics providing the first line of defence against infection in the hospital, are threatened with outsourcing. As a result, their jobs, their wages, their terms and conditions are all at risk.
Across the country, UNISON has fought and won for NHS workers employed by private contractors. But we know that all too often these vital workers don’t get the same deal that those directly employed by the NHS receive – despite often doing the same work in the same hospitals.
Right now, domestics at PAH are balloting on strike action. They don’t want to take industrial action – going on strike is always a last resort, especially for low-paid workers – but as their employer refuses to give them the assurances they need about their future, they’re more than willing to stand up for themselves.
All too often when groups like these brave domestics come under attack, it’s because their employer assumes that they’re weak or divided – that they can be picked off without a fight. But with the PAH domestics, as we’ve seen time and time again in our union, they’re wrong. This is an incredibly strong, incredibly united group of workers fighting for their jobs, their wages, their families, their hospital and their patients.
These vital NHS workers are passionate about their work and our health service. As the hospital are only too proud to advertise, this is one of the top performing trusts in the country for low rates of infection and MRSA – that’s an achievement built upon the hard work and dedication of the very domestics whose jobs are now at risk.
UNISON will always stand up to those who seek to privatise our NHS – or any public service. The ideological push to dismantle the health service and put it into the hands of those who care more about profit than decent care will always be resisted. Right now, the incredible domestics of PAH are on the frontline of that fight. And our whole union stands with them.