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22.11.2019 / News /

Hospital cleaners, caterers and porters declare indefinite strike action in what will be one of the longest strikes in the NHS’ history

  • Members of the trade union United Voices of the World (UVW) will begin indefinite strike action in January 2020 at St. Mary’s Hospital, West London.

  • The strike will see up to 200 cleaners, caterers and porters outsourced by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to French multinational Sodexo walk off the job in a demand to become NHS employees.

  • The strike will be one of the longest, and potentially the longest, in the NHS’ History.

  • The strike is endorsed by the London Regional Council of the British Medical Association. 

  • The workers have already taken 6 days of strike action with 9 more days planned for the 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th of November and the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th of December.

The announcement of an indefinite strike commencing in January 2020 is the latest turn in an ongoing dispute between cleaners, caterers and porters and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. So far the strike has seen hundreds of workers and supporters picket and peacefully occupy St Mary’s hospital, Charing Cross and Western Eye hospital, all of which are a part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

Petros Elia, a UVW organiser says, “This will not only be one of the longest strikes in the NHS’ history for any group of workers, but it is also the first time a group of outsourced works are striking to be brought in house as NHS employees. We cannot allow for there to be a two-tiered racially divided workforce within the NHS, and we won’t stop striking until that is put to an end. If Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales can do away with outsourcing cleaners, caterers and porters in hospitals, then England can and should as well.”

The strike action has been endorsed by clinicians at St. Mary’s; with 50 doctors having recently signed an open letter to Imperial Trust CEO, Tim Orchard, calling upon the Trust to meet the workers’ demands and make them direct employees. In the letter, doctors state that, “workers employed by Sodexo feel undervalued, demotivated and unsupported and have been left with no option but to vote for industrial action,” and that, “The signatories of this letter stand in solidarity with striking workers. Sodexo must do more to give them a fairer deal and it is incumbent upon the Trust to help enforce this change”.

One striking worker said, “I work 55 hours a week just to cover my rent. This is my home; I spend more time here than in my house. Yet I am treated like a dog and made to feel like dirt”.

— Ends —

Notes for Editors

Further quotes from union officials and striking workers are available upon request. Please contact

Planned strike dates at St. Mary’s hospital are as follows:

  • Round 1. 28th, 29th and 31st of October

  • Round 2. 11th, 12th and 13th of November

  • Round 3. 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th of November

  • Round 4. 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th of December

  • Indefinite Action: January 2020

The demands of the cleaners, caterers and porters are as follows:

 Full equality in pay and terms of conditions with in-house NHS staff as set by the NHS’ Agenda for Change (AfC) framework; vaccinations; improved separate-gender changing facilities and access to NHS staff canteens and common rooms. For more information, see: uvwunion.org.uk/stmarysworkers 

United Voices of the World (UVW) is a London-based trade union with 3000 members and around 200 joining every month. The majority of its members work in low-paid jobs and are migrants predominantly from Latin America and the Caribbean — with a growing number from Asia and Africa. In 2016, the union organised the largest cleaners strike in UK history and became the first trade union to force a UK university (the LSE) to bring the entirety of its outsourced cleaners in-house. It also organised one of the longest strikes in the history of the City of London, lasting 61 consecutive days. UVW also represents workers in the legal sector, charity sector, cultural sector, architectural sector, and sex workers too — all of whom are fighting against low pay, unpaid work and overwork.

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