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London: Unite members to strike against NHS privatisation
Three hundred Unite members in the labs at Kings College Hospital, London, are to be balloted against privatisation. The hospital, a Foundation Trust, has decided it wants to farm out the labs to a joint venture with multinational out-sourcing company, Serco.
Andy Ford, Unite NHS steward
Serco also run the Docklands Light Railway, helicopter maintenance for the Ministry of Defence, and privatised prisons including the notorious Yarl's Wood detention centre. In the NHS Serco have contracts in building maintenance, portering and cleaning.
It has been described as "the biggest company you've never heard of".
Pathology in the NHS represents a new and lucrative market to these people - lucrative because 70% of clinical decisions in the NHS are based on lab tests carried out in pathology labs. This "market" is worth millions of pounds a year.
In particular the labs at Kings have received many millions of pounds of public investment over recent years, and the analysers, instruments and sample handling technology are state of the art. No wonder Serco would like to get their hands on them.
When foundation trusts were introduced The Socialist described them as an attack on the heart of the NHS. They are an open gateway for the privateers. This latest attack on a service which is at the heart of every major hospital shows how they now want to take things to the next level - and build millions of pounds of profit at the expense of NHS workers' pay, conditions and pensions.
The draft contract for new starters in the King's 'joint venture' is nothing like an NHS contract. Using these Wal-Mart style contracts Serco will undercut other NHS providers on lab tests.
The joint venture is a threat to every NHS scientific worker in London and the south-east.
Unite, and the local Unite reps, are to be applauded for the firm stand they are taking in defence of the NHS and they must be supported.
In The Socialist 9 September 2010:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party NHS campaign
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party review