Workers picket at Barts Health

Strikers in a long-running dispute at Barts Health won some important victories last week. Workers in A&E, pharmacy and pathology were this week due to strike alongside facilities workers at the giant east London NHS trust. 

But by last Friday, negotiations between bosses and the workers’ Unite union had made significant progress, leading the union to suspend strikes for those groups.

The union has won for them what it set out to at the beginning of the action. But many strikers now say new issues arose during the strike–and they must fight over these too. 

And some of the dispute’s original issues remain unresolved. That means Unite leaders must do more than simply declare victory for the groups where action is suspended.

“Management has met most of the ‘red lines’ we set out when we first went on strike at the end of last year,” pathology union rep Zarina told Socialist Worker.

“In my section, we recruited lots of new people that have their own demands. Many of them want to carry on with the strike until all the issues are sorted. So, we’ve got what we asked for. The trouble is, we should have asked for more.”

There is so far little sign of a victory for the facilities strikers, including porters, caterers, laundry workers and cleaners. Said is a porter who has worked for the trust for over ten years. He said that despite the bosses’ intransigence, strikers remain strong. “We know that the strike is hitting hard. People going into work must now work twice as hard and they are pushed to do more overtime. 

“That means the dispute is costing the bosses. But we have a problem. The Unison union members are breaking our strike and going in. If we all stood together, this strike would be won already.”

The union has so far taken pride in its position that there’s no victory until all the strikers have won their demands. It’s a position it should stick by. The fight is over issues including bullying, unreasonable workload expectations, a lack of meaningful consultation on changes and a top-down management approach.

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