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Fighting back against cuts and closures
"NHS - ARE you bovvered?" asked a little girl's T-shirt. "Yes we are", said over 200 health workers and residents of Waltham Forest, on a lively demo against NHS cuts and privatisation at Whipps Cross Hospital, including 400 job losses and the threatened closure of four wards and two operating theatres.
Norma, a health visitor, spoke of how they fought off proposals to cut 45% of health visitors and 25% of district nurses. Lobbies of the council and MPs made the Primary Care Trust (PCT) back off.
But, she warned, they will be back and they will look somewhere else for the cuts.
Len Hockey, joint secretary of the hospital UNISON branch read out messages of support from campaigns in Manchester and Maidstone. "It is to the trade union movement's eternal shame that we're having to have all these little demos, but they won't call a national demo over the whole issue of the privatisation of public services."
Len spoke of how for the last nine years, portering and cleaning services at Whipps Cross had been market tested, privatised and re-privatised. He would often wake up in the morning and wonder who he was working for.
Tarmac, Tarmac ServiceMaster, a Danish multi-national and now Initial-Rentokil were treating the workers like vermin, forcing them to ballot for strike action in order to honour an agreement made three years before.
Nancy Taaffe, chair of Waltham Forest's local government UNISON branch, warned that the privatisers want to take us back to the times when doctors presented a bill after seeing a patient.
Vicky Perrin, bringing greetings from the Huddersfield Save our NHS campaign, said the fightback has begun and quoted Nye Bevan, a socialist MP and one of the founders of the NHS: "How long will the Welfare State last? It will last as long as people fight for it."
Linda Taaffe, Waltham Forest NUT executive member, described how one of Blair's advisers on the health service is now president of a company which is ready to take on contracted services for the NHS.
But they don't turn to the boardrooms and shareholders to pay for the £39 million deficit.
Calling on the unions and the TUC to organise a national demo, Linda said that if they don't do it then we have to find a way to do it ourselves.
She recalled Walthamstow's first demo against the poll tax in 1989, which had been a similar size: "People said, 'Oh you'll never defeat Thatcher and the poll tax'. We started out like this, then we got together in our millions and defeated the poll tax".
THE WHIPPS Cross rally heard a solidarity message from health workers in the Venezuelan capital Caracas. It said: "In our country, healthworkers are also struggling against reformism and bureaucracy, against corruption and counter-reform that threaten the livelihoods of working-class people.
These counter-reforms are an attempt to take away rights won in previous struggles...
In Venezuela a group of workers have heard of your situation... workers here... have to know that in Europe, where we are told by the media that workers live happily, there are also attacks taking place and workers struggling for their jobs. We hope you receive this message and it will help you struggle until victory...
From the Bolivarian front of health workers in the Hospital El Aglodonal, trade union delegation of Sirtrasalud Algodonal and UNT.
And the local branch of the Committee for a Workers' International in Venezuela (sister party of the Socialist Party England and Wales)."
Defending the NHS
"The demo is impressive and very well organised. We thank the Socialist Party for your encouragement and involvement in this demo."
Kingsley, UNISON steward Whipps Cross
"The demonstration is a great success, I think we got our point over to the local community. Many people will have seen that what's happening locally will affect their future, their children and their children's children."
Eddie Cook, secretary Amicus branch, Whipps Cross
"I joined the demo as a Whipps Cross nurse. I believe that our priority is the patients. The NHS matters - every one of us is a potential customer of the NHS."
"I'm a porter at Whipps Cross - we get no sick pay or London weighting - we have to protest about these things."
"In a few weeks we will be going for industrial action to get Initial Rentokil, who run the contract for cleaning and portering at Whipps Cross, to honour the agreement we made three years ago.
We will need the support of Waltham Forest to help us win, together with the health service unions."
Regina, UNISON steward, Whipps Cross Hospital
DURING THE rally an air conditioning engineer told us he cleaned Whipps Cross hospital's air-conditioning filters. But the trust didn't pay for an adequate service contract so the filters weren't cleaned often enough. "The operating theatre filters are filthy, it's disgusting", he told us.
This ridiculous penny-pinching scheme puts the most vulnerable patients, those undergoing surgery, at risk of such illnesses as Legionnaires disease.
LEICESTER UNISON demonstration against NHS cuts and privatisation. Saturday 8 July, 10am, assembling in Humberstone Gate, Leicester.
MERSEYSIDE Socialist Party public meeting: Fighting cuts to the NHS in Merseyside and Cheshire. Guest speaker Simon Swanick, local trade unionist and Runcorn anti-cuts campaigner. Thursday 20 July, 7.30pm, Casa club, 29 Hope Street, Liverpool city centre.
FEWER THAN one in five student nurses graduating this summer, after three years of study, has a job to go to once they qualify.
Evidence from 20 universities showed more than 80% of nursing students are finishing their training without any post lined up. That's up from 30% last year.
Midwives, community nurses and physiotherapists faced similar situations.
Nurses and other workers are paying the price with their jobs for the NHS's financial problems.
NHS WORKERS in Surrey have voted overwhelmingly not to go along with their Primary Care Trust (PCT) plans to transfer thousands of them into a new not-for-profit partnership, Central Surrey Health, at the end of July.
84% of district nurses, health visitors, therapists and others scheduled to be transferred, voted against the idea.
In The Socialist 6 July 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Campaign for a New Workers Party
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party workplace news