Strikers celebrate their win (Picture: @OCSDispute/Twitter)

A strike by a group of low paid health workers in Lancashire has humbled one of the biggest outsourcing firms in the NHS.

Some 50 porters, cleaners and caterers employed by OCS at Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Trust took to picket lines for 26 days from June onwards.

They fought for proper sick pay, a decent hourly rate and unsocial hours payments against a firm that initially refused to even talk to the strikers’ Unison union.

The union now says it has won a 14.7 percent pay rise backdated to April 2022 and an extra seven days annual leave.

It also says workers now have full parity with NHS sick pay arrangements and enhanced pay on bank holidays.

A shop steward from the Blackpool hospital site told Socialist Worker they are “overjoyed” with the result.

“This means so much to everyone here. We didn’t get everything we wanted on unsocial hours, but the main thing we were fighting for was sick pay, and we’ve won that,” she said.

“The mood here now is so good and people are really proud of themselves for having stood up and fought back.

“We stood on the picket in all weathers. We had non-strikers cross our lines and tell us we’d never achieve anything. They even refused to talk to us when we were back in work.

“But now we’ve won even they are going to benefit.”

The steward says that the outstanding issues of enhanced payments for working unsocial hours have not been forgotten.

OCS’s contract is up for renewal in January and the union is putting pressure on the trust to ensure that enhanced pay is part of the negotiation.

“The lesson we’ve learned is, if you’re not treated right, join a union and fight back. We took on a multimillion pound international firm and won, and if we can, so can you.”

Fight to win the PCS ballots

Workers in every government department have less than two weeks to go to vote for national strikes over pay and pensions.

If they win their ballots, it could mean more than 160,000 civil service workers could join the pay revolt.

“I think there’s a mood at large,” Pete Jackson, a jobcentre worker in Birmingham, told Socialist Worker.

“There’s still concern with how people will cope with industrial action, but in my branch people are saying when are we going to go on strike?

“And there are already the beginnings of a conversation about what our picket lines are going to be like.”

The ballots—which end on Monday 1 November—are disaggregated. That means that—unless union leaders are prepared to defy the law—each government department will have to pass a 50 percent turnout threshold in order to strike.

Simon Brett, a PCS activist working for the HMRC tax office in Leeds, said campaigners have combined ring-rounds with office leafleting and meetings.

“The campaign has been good because it’s involved more than just the usual activists and we’ve managed to grow our branch as a result,” he told Socialist Worker.

He added that linking the campaign to strikes by other groups of workers has also helped.

“We’ve been talking about the cost of living crisis. When the RMT union has been on strike, we visited the picket lines.”

Nick Clark

Legal advisers and court associates have walked out for nine days at more than 60 magistrates’ courts in England and Wales.

They are battling the Common Platform IT system which is being rolled out throughout the courts service.

Their PCS union argue that the new system means tasks take longer, stress rises among workers and work-life balance was negatively impacted.

Thanks to Edward Garner

Quorn workers serve up new action

More than 60 workers at Quorn’s meat-free production factory began all-out strikes last Thursday over pay.

The Unite union members struck for nine days in October over a 4 percent offer plus a  one-off £1,000 payment.

The strikers want a 9 percent pay rise—in line with RPI in April when negotiations began. But with RPI soaring, the strikers are fighting for a meatier offer.

Muller workers ramp up battle

HGV drivers and shunters at Muller’s Stonehouse factory in Gloucestershire have escalated their dispute over rota changes.

The Unite union called a further 11 days of action  last week. This follows five strike days in August and September.

The 70 workers began action last Wednesday, and were set to continue until Saturday this week.

700 food workers resist low pay

Bakkover food manufacturing factory workers in Lincolnshire are set to strike over pay.

More than 700 Unite union members, who make own-brand soups, sauces and deli products for major supermarkets, plan to walk out next Tuesday for eight days.

Most of the workers make just 1p over the national minimum wage, and rejected a 6.5 percent pay offer.

Key battles in housing sector

Unite union members employed by Walsall Housing Group are on strike over a 3.1 percent pay increase and a £300 one-off payment.

The 40 workers repair tenants’ homes. They are set to take 12 days of action, which started last Friday and continued on Monday and Friday this week, Monday next week then 4, 7, 11, 14, 18, 21, 25 and 28 November.

Meanwhile some 50 housing officers employed by Bristol council began strikes last Friday over unsustainable workloads.

Strikes were set to end on Monday of this week. Workers have seen a 64 percent increase in the number of cases involving vulnerable tenants.

Journalists give bosses a deadline

Workers at Al Jazeera are due to walk out on 4 and 20 November.

Members of the NUJ union, backed strikes by 97 percent.

Workers want more than the bosses’ 4.5 percent pay offer.

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