Low paid domestic staff working for South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust struck on Thursday of last week in protest over new contracts. Their second one-day strike followed an overtime ban and a work to rule.
Strikers organised all-day picketing rotas and up to 20 domestics were already on picket duty at 6am, asking workers arriving for the morning shift not to cover for strikers. “It’s management’s responsibility to keep the hospital clean, not yours,” was the message to staff arriving for work.
The strikers were receiving great support as most workers took stickers to wear, declaring “Support Your Domestics”.
Strikers were also boosted by a donation of £200 from the Amicus union’s Newcastle Central branch.
Around 240 workers from the GMB and Unison unions are in dispute over new job descriptions under Agenda for Change - the sweeping reorganisation of terms and conditions across the NHS.
The new job descriptions do not recognise domestic workers’ contact with patients, visitors and other NHS staff.
This will lead to workers being placed on a lower pay band and limit their pay increases.
Marian Langley, Unison joint branch secretary, explained that the workers had already suffered an effective pay cut because they have not yet transferred to Agenda for Change so had not received a pay award this year.
The mood of the strikers was confident and upbeat, but very angry. Marian said, “Last week when it rained on the pickets management were seen laughing. That really infuriated the strikers. But nursing staff have been very supportive.”
Workers felt there had been some intimidation of staff since the strike.
“I was told to follow a Friday rota on a Thursday,” said striker Audrey Price. “I refused and fellow domestics also refused.”
The domestics are now determined to escalate the action.
“They feel the one-day strikes are not working and the consensus is to go for a week’s strike,” said Marian.
E-mail messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org
Send donations (to be divided between Unison and the GMB) to Unison Office, c/o South Tyneside District Hospital, Harton Lane, South Shields, NE34 0PL.