“The workers at Sage have given their absolute all, under impossible conditions, to take care of elders in my community. It’s extremely important that these workers are treated with dignity.”
With flags billowing, banners waving and music blaring, UVW members at the Sage Nursing Home in North London were joined by dozens of supporters on a vibrant and noisy picket line on Thursday. The staff are on strike over the poverty wages at a care home which is short-staffed and mismanaged.
Addressing the picket line Bile, a senior care worker at Sage and UVW executive committee member said: “They say there’s a pandemic, they say there’s Covid-19, but there’s a different Covid, the bosses are the second virus.”
The Sage workers’ picket was joined by many trade unionists and supporters. Aron Keller from Jewish Solidarity Action said: “I’m incredibly proud to be here in solidarity with the workers at Sage who have given their absolute all, under impossible conditions, to take care of elders in my community. It’s extremely important that these workers are treated with dignity.”
Andy McDonald MP surprised workers on the picket line. “You are the people who have kept people in this care home safe, consistently through the pandemic, what could be more important than that?”
“People across this country are looking at this dispute, and sending their solidarity to you, you are absolutely heroic in standing up, absolutely persevere with this solidarity to each and every one of you and you will prevail.” he added.
The strike has prompted a flurry of support from around the country, including a message of solidarity from Sharon Graham, General Secretary of Unite – it is not often that the leader of a TUC-affiliated union publicly supports UVW, an independent, unaffiliated union which bosses often refuse to recognise in disputes.
In an impromptu move, the workers took their protest through the streets of Golders Green before boarding the “Solidarity Bus” to Freshwater House in central London. There they unfurled a banner outside the office of billionaire landlord Benzion Freshwater who sits on Sage’s board of trustees. Members occupied the lobby, demanding to speak to Freshwater himself. They delivered a letter to one of the billionaire’s assistants calling on the trustee to listen to their demands.
Sage workers then made their way to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), where cleaners won their own dispute last week after threatening to take strike action. The two groups of UVW members have repeatedly offered solidarity for each others’ causes – but this time, they got to do it in person, as speeches and dance broke out during the workers’ lunch break.
Memuna, GOSH cleaner, told the striking Sage workers: “We are fighting for equality. We are getting there. You have to unite, focus and be passionate about what you are doing. Don’t say: ‘oh, some people will leave us’. Just keep focussed keep going and keep calm. If you are together you’ll win. You come together, you fight together, you win. If you don’t come together, you will never win. Please, please, please come together. We are behind you.”