Bradford health workers strike against privatisation

Bradford health workers strike against privatisation

01-08-2019 \\ England and Wales

Mike Forster

Picketers along road waving Unison banners

Over 400 support and ancillary staff at Bradford District Hospital are taking a fortnight's strike action from 1 August against the hospital trust's plan to transfer them out the NHS and into a wholly owned subsidiary company. These backdoor privatisation proposals are the brainchild of the Tories along with NHS England, which helps trusts avoid paying tax. This is part of their long term plan to breakup the NHS into bitesized privatised chunks for future investors. For example, the proposed Bradford company is already looking for business elsewhere in the region to supplement its profits.

These disgraceful plans have run into trouble almost as soon as they were launched. Trade unions members are fighting back across Yorkshire. Most trusts have been forced back by determined and united opposition from affected staff members in Mid Yorkshire, Leeds and Doncaster. The Wigan Unison members also forced a climbdown by their trust after a limited period of strike action. It was looking as if the plans were being kicked into the long grass by the NHS after a review of their success, until this dispute blew up.

In an earlier ballot in Bradford Unison had failed to get over the 50% threshold for taking legal action and the trust mistakenly assumed they could railroad this through. However, with a more determined recruitment campaign and a second ballot, Unison secured an overwhelming majority of over 80% for strike action. Management decided to call the union's bluff and refused to back down. The first week-long strike took place last month with overwhelming support from the workers and the public.

On every day of the strike over 300 turned out with at least 40 new members joining the union. The picket lines were noisy, united and jubilant. The unity in action has been an inspiration. Filipino, Asian, Afro-Caribbean and white British workers have stood shoulder to shoulder and grown more militant as the strike has developed. At the first mass rally, when asked if they were prepared to take more action, workers demanded the union take them out for a fortnight!

On the back foot, the trust has tried to offer sweeteners by suggesting they will guarantee the same terms and conditions as in the NHS for 25 years. This has been rejected unanimously by the strikers. They demand to stay in the NHS.

The battle lines are now drawn. This strike is of national importance. A victory could see off the whole idea of wholly owned companies in the NHS. It is vital the strikers get moral, financial and practical support. UNISON’s national leadership must continue and step up it's support for the strike, which is receiving wholehearted support from the local labour movement. We can't allow these strikers to be forced back due to hardship. Workplace and union donations are urgently needed. Please send in messages of support and visit picket lines when you can.

Victory to the Bradford strikers!

Join the strikers’ Mass Rally on Friday 2nd August outside Bradford City Hall from midday until 1pm

Join the picket line every day at Bradford General Hospital from 6am onwards

Please send donations to ‘Unison Health’ UNISON Resource Centre, St Mary’s Hospital, Greenhill Road, Leeds LS12 3QE

Donations to the account at Unity, Unison Health Branch

Acc No 49021215 Sort Code 60-83-01

Tel 01274 396383