Outsourced hospital workers are protesting against planned cuts that would mean at least 40 job losses and cleaners handing out food to patients.
Staff for private company Mitie demonstrated outside St George’s Hospital, where they work, in Tooting on 14 June, demanding the plans be halted.
John Inokoba, a union representative in the workforce, said: “When the trust awarded the contract to Mitie, they assured us that the standard would remain the same.
“But evening workers, lots of whom are parents who can only work those hours, are having their shifts changed. It will only be night shifts.”
Mr Inokoba said the cuts could also make the hospital unsafe.
He said: “People working in high risk areas will have to move between these areas – possibly transporting infection with them. And if cleaners are handing food to patients, this could be unsafe as well.
“It’s not just our members we are concerned with. It will also affect the nurses and the patients.
“We don’t want any changes or job losses. If those 40 jobs are gone, the hospital is not going to reduce its size. It will be the same amount of work for fewer people. It’s not safe.”
Mitie is currently in the process of consulting its approximately 600 St George’s staff on the changes.
A spokesperson said: “Our teams provide valuable services every day to support our NHS.
“We’ve invested in the latest technology as well staff recognition and development, to ensure service excellence in support of the critical work that hospital staff carry out every day.
“The proposed changes to operating models reflect current benchmarks and NHS expectations. The consultation is ongoing, and we continue to work closely with both our client and the union.
“We are committed to continuing to enhance services through improved working methods based on NHS best practice and invest in better equipment and technology to make our colleagues jobs easier.”
But GMB union organiser Helen O’Connor, who is supporting the workers, disagreed, slamming Mitie for “cutting corners at the expense of the well-being of the hospital workforce and its patients”.
She said: “It is astounding that Mitie expect the trade unions and the workforce to support these cuts. Their consultation meetings have been little more than an effort to dupe the workforce into believing these cuts are a good thing.
“GMB has told Mitie that our members are unequivocally opposed to these dangerous cutbacks that put the welfare of the workforce, the patients and the public at risk.
“We have expressed our grave concerns about the health and safety implications of having hospital cleaners handling food as well.”
Ms O’Connor said GMB members “are up for a fight” and are willing to ballot for industrial action if their demands are not met.
A St George’s spokesperson said: “We are aware of the consultation process Mitie is undertaking with their staff, as well as the ongoing discussions with GMB.
“Our focus remains on providing outstanding care, every time for our patients, staff, and the communities we serve.”
Source: Wandsworth Times