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Barts under pressure as Serco cancels its contract with the NHS Trust on day Unite confirms strike ballot

Serco has today (3 November) confirmed that its current Soft Services contract with Barts Health NHS Trust will end on 30 April 2023. Unite is demanding that there must be “no more contracts for outsourcing privateers that put profit before people”.

Last July, due to Unite pressure, Serco lost its contract for refuse services with Bexley Council following industrial action against low pay and poor treatment.

Next week, hundreds of key NHS workers, employed by Serco are preparing for an industrial action ballot across Barts Health NHS Trust in a battle against exploitation and low pay. Unite also called on the Trust to bring these workers back in-house into NHS employment.

Today (3 November 2021) Shane Degaris, deputy group chief executive at Barts Health NHS Trust said: “We welcome assurances from Serco that there will be no disruption over the next 18 months as we consider future arrangements, which could include bringing some services back in-house.”

In response, Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said: “There must be no more contracts for outsourcing privateers that put profit before people. Unite expects nothing short of a solid commitment from Barts to end the grossly unjust two-tier workforce. The Trust must bring all outsourced services back in-house. 

“Our members begin voting on industrial action on Monday (8 November). Serco and Barts can only be confident of ‘no disruption’ if they are prepared to meet our reasonable demands for a significant pay increase and an end to unmanageable workloads, poor treatment and bullying by managers.”

The mainly Black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAEM) staff, which include cleaners and porters, are paid up to 15 per cent less than directly employed NHS staff. The workers are rightly demanding a significant pay increase. They are also fed up with management bullying and exploitation. The staff are fighting back against the draconian use of the company’s sickness and disciplinary policies, bullying by management and unmanageable workloads.

Serco Group PLC had a turnover of £3.9 billion last year but the multinational is offering staff just 1per cent. Unite has branded the offer an “insult” to the workers who risked their lives at the height of the pandemic and continue to put themselves at risk. 

Unite will ballot ancillary staff including cleaners and porters across Royal London Hospital, Whipps Cross and St Barts. The ballot opens on Monday 8 November and closes on December 8.