Monday, January 05, 2009
In 1983 the Conservative Party keen to destroy public services decided to force through privatisation of hospital cleaning. This led to cuts of 50% in cleaning staff, poor pay and more importantly a massive increase in infection rates.
One of the first contracts to be awarded to the private sector (as the NHS Cleaning staff refused to cut their staff and pay) was at Hammersmith hospital. The subsequent strike was one of the most aggressive fought and included occupations and breaking up of Board meetings.
The contract went to Mediclean (who also won contracts at St Helier, Sutton and Bridge Hospital, Essex. The £450,000 Hammersmith contract started on 28th January 1985.
While a majority of the NUPE and COHSE members struck, a significant minority remained in work and the strike divided by country, the Irish and Portuguese being the strongest. helped no doubt that the NUPE Branch secretary Lydia Fraser was Portuguese (her husband Pete Fraser was NUPE branch secretary at St Charles Hospital. While a number of the COHSE branch officers were Irish.
Not all workers had their pay cut the contract manager Simon Cox at Hammersmith it was discovered was on £15,000 a year. COHSE was able to secure the pay and benefits package for all key Mediclean staff much to Medicleans embarrassment, this included BUPA coverage and top of the range cars while cleaning staff had their pay cut, holidays, sick pay, pensions, overtinme and weekend rates.
The Cleaning staff at Hammersmith Hospitalwas was cut from the original 220 staff to 158 and the number of full time staff was cut from 122 to just 28.
Withe regard to cleaning hours in the contracts they were cut from 6,170 to 2,802 per week hardly surprising that "so called" savings were made. but this was at the direct cost of hospital cleanliness. Today over 70% of hospital cleaning contracts are still in the private sector and the Tories have a cheek to complain about dirty NHS hospitals....who made them dirty ?.
Below right Lydia and Pete Fraser at COHSE Conference 1984