Christmas strikes: NHS Unite workers deliver Christmas card to 'Scrooge-like' government

"We’ve worked hard all through Covid – in patient catering, as domestics and porters – and we just want to fight for what’s owed to us," say NHS workers.
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The Grinch delivered a Christmas card to the Department of Health as part of an ongoing dispute over pay - as strikes begin.

Members of the Unite the Union from Barts Health NHS Trust are striking over Christmas over "pay, safe staffing levels, bank rates and lump-sum payments". Many current and previous staff of NHS contractors missed out on a nationally agreed settlement involving a £1,650 lump sum earlier this year.

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Cleaners, caterers, porters and other low-paid staff delivered their Christmas card for health secretary Victoria Atkins on Monday (December 18). Also at the protest were workers from Kent and the West Midlands.

Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, a national officer for Unite the union, told LondonWorld: “The Department of Health ought to pay up and give these members the cash lump sum that they deserve and that they are entitled to. We won’t give up until they pay up.”

Len Hockey, branch secretary of Unite at Barts, told the crowd: “A month ago Social Enterprise UK, an industry body representing workers in the health service challenged [the government] and said that there should be the lump sum payment for physiotherapists, district nurses and others. The government did a U-turn then. They said they were stepping in to do the right thing. They said there was going to be justice for these workers. Well, what about the rest of us? If they can make a U-turn for 10,000 workers in that setting, can they not make a U-turn and do right and implement the lump sum for us?”

Barts NHS Trust strikes

Unite members who work for Synergy Medical at Barts Trust are striking from December 18 to 26, while NHS staff in facilities are striking from December 18 to 22, as well as on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. NHS staff from the East and South East London Pathology Partnership employed by Barts Trust will be joining their colleagues on December 21 and 22.

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All Barts Health NHS Trust hospitals - Mile End, Newham University, St Bartholomews, Royal London, Whipps Cross - are affected.

A spokesperson for Barts Health NHS Trust said: "We are continuing to engage with staff and unions to find a suitable resolution to the issues raised, including those relating to the NHS lump sum payment. We understand colleagues are unhappy and are working to find a resolution as soon as possible.”

Unite's Grinch delivering a Christmas card for health secretary Victoria Atkins. (Photo by Arielle Goldstein)Unite's Grinch delivering a Christmas card for health secretary Victoria Atkins. (Photo by Arielle Goldstein)
Unite's Grinch delivering a Christmas card for health secretary Victoria Atkins. (Photo by Arielle Goldstein)

'Even the Grinch...'

Onay Kasab, the national lead officer for Unite, said: “Even the Grinch would work out that you need to take away from the rich to give to the poor."

One worker from the Dudley Group in the West Midlands said: “We’re here today to fight for the lump sum payment. We’ve worked hard all through Covid – in patient catering, as domestics and porters – and we just want to fight for what’s owed to us. We all deserve it. Let’s bring this fight to the government and let’s get this payment.”

The Department of Health and Social Care was contacted for comment.