Security guards who took to the picket line to fight for equality at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) last week have today revealed how racist slurs were used against them as part of an attempt to undermine their three-day strike.
Last Tuesday, guards held a rally outside the hospital after their demands to be in-housed were met with a wall of silence from management. Comments leaked from a WhatsApp group run by colleagues intent on union-busting, described the action as “shit Kala behaviour”.
The Urdu word “Kala”, is a derogatory, racist term used to refer to people of a dark complexion, in this case, the predominantly Black security guards at GOSH, who are employed by a private contractor, Carlisle Support Services. The guards are asking for equal terms and conditions with other NHS workers and believe the failure to in-house them constitutes racial discrimination.
The racist comments were captured in a GOSH employees’ WhatsApp group which includes the security guards’ line manager. The chat has been used for union-busting and attacking UVW’s organising at GOSH. Other comments included ridiculing the Black Lives Matter movement and the security guards campaign for equal rights and the three-day strike action they took last week. In response, the security guards are reporting a hate incident to the police and commencing legal proceedings.
Samuel, a security guard at GOSH and UVW member, said: “I feel extremely bad that we as Black people are being called demeaning names. They took screenshots of only four of us and used the phrase ‘huge numbers’ and said someone should ‘Call the police to get them removed’. People fought and died for our rights and they are making a mockery of our rights.”
Alain, another security guard and UVW member, criticised his line manager for being in the WhatsApp group chat and his failure to condemn the racist language used. Alain said: “For him to be in this group as a manager is not on. To be honest, I feel very, very humiliated. Not only me, my mum is a Black woman, my family are Black, my wife’s Black, my children are Black. To return to work after being insulted like this is going to be hard.”
Another security guard, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “They are obviously discrediting the people who went on strike and saying the reason why they will never be taken in-house is because of ‘Black people’s behaviour’. It’s just disgusting to me. You can’t use somebody’s skin colour to provide a reason for why they are outsourced. If it was anybody else, would you say the same thing?”
Responding to the revelations, Petros Elia, general secretary for UVW, said “Today we have discovered the true GOSH, one where their Black security guards are subject not only to structural racism but also direct racial harassment. United Voices of the World is an anti-racist union. In deeds, not words. This is why we are bringing four legal cases against GOSH, three of which are group claims for race discrimination. We have also called on GOSH and Carlisle to take immediate action against the racist harassment our members have received and to protect their human rights and dignity at work.”
He continued: “Our members quite rightly feel angry, dismayed, and humiliated at the racist contempt with which they have been treated and we will stand with them in their fight for dignity and equality no matter what it takes or how long it takes.”
20.12.2021 / GOSH