Seven unbroken days of strike action by estates and facilities staff at Bradford hospitals have blown the lid off the simmering pot of workers' struggle in the NHS. Picket lines numbering in the hundreds, an unplanned midweek march, and support from the passing public have brought the fight against privatisation into the spotlight.
The proposed transfer of hundreds of staff from direct NHS employment to a 'wholly owned subsidiary' has hit a nerve. Unison union organisers on the picket line have reported dozens of new members since the ballot for strike action.
Anger at the likely effect on their pay and conditions is coupled with fury at the idea that they could be removed from the NHS and into private hands.
Many we spoke to are prepared for that fight to include indefinite strike action, although an escalation to a fortnight of strike action is likely the next step should negotiations not result in the complete removal of the privatisation plans.
Photos from inside Bradford hospitals were shared around the picket line. These included the sight of mouldy bread, uncollected hazardous waste and worse. Further days without these crucial members of staff will bring management out in a cold sweat.
As well as offering daily support on the picket line, Socialist Party members have been keenly engaged in discussion with strikers about raising the profile of the dispute with marches and rallies as further strike action takes place.
The strike rally on 10 July was addressed by Mike Forster, the chair of the five-year long HandsOffHRI Huddersfield hospital campaign, and Socialist Party member, as well as by one of the strikers from the victorious Sodexo strike which took place in Doncaster earlier this year.
This strike has now assumed huge significance, becoming a major trial of strength in which the stakes could not be higher. A victory in Bradford would be a blow to similar plans at other NHS trusts.
The labour movement locally must be mobilised in support of the strike. The huge energy and enthusiasm unleashed among the strikers must be tapped into to further the strike, including electing a strike committee to plan further action.
Solidarity support has poured in from all over the country and will need to stepped up for the next strike to ensure there is a complete victory.
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