“GOSH has been robbing us for a long time and finding excuses not to treat us fairly. They are meant to look after us, but they left us in the hands of private companies who bullied us and denied us our right to NHS pay and other benefits. GOSH knew about it and did nothing. So, we need to take them to court to get justice. And justice we will get.”Memuna Kabia, cleaner for GOSH and United Voices of the World member
A group of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (GOSH) cleaners and UVW members are taking the hospital to court for indirect racial discrimination within the National Health Service (NHS). The 83 cleaners, who are predominantly Black, brown and migrant workers, say that they should receive the same pay and conditions as the rest of staff, who are predominantly white.
The GOSH cleaners won a battle against their outsourcing last summer, when they forced the hospital to ditch private contractor OCS Group UK Ltd and transfer their contracts in-house. They were expecting their terms and conditions to be automatically brought in line with NHS contracts, which are governed by the 2004 Agenda for Change (AfC), but to their surprise things are taking a long time to change. Under the AfC agreement they should receive the same pay and benefits, as the rest of the staff. Now, they want not just their conditions to mirror those of their colleagues but compensation for the years they were employed privately under inferior terms.
Memuna Kabia, cleaner for GOSH and United Voices of the World member, is confident that justice will be made. “GOSH has been robbing us for a long time, and finding excuses not to treat us fairly. They are meant to look after us, but they left us in the hands of private companies who bullied us and denied us our right to NHS pay and other benefits. GOSH knew about it and did nothing. So we need to take them to court to get justice. And justice we will get,” Memuna said.
The litigating cleaners believe the reason for this situation is heedless institutional racism. They are confident they can win the case because, thanks to their union, United Voices of the World (UVW), there is now a legal precedent in UK law. Last December, UVW helped outsourced Royal Park attendants win a groundbreaking court case where an Employment Tribunal ruled that their lower pay was unlawful because it amounted to indirect race discrimination. This transformative victory, the first ever in the UK, could bring down the scourge of outsourcing for good and help Black, brown and migrant workers fight back against structural racism. UVW was instrumental in setting the UK’s new legal benchmark and will do everything in its power to help GOSH cleaners and other UVW members fight against racism in the workplace whether deliberate or not.
For Petros Elia, general secretary of United Voices of the World, this is just the beginning. “Our members have already shown their collective strength and courage by fighting and beating outsourcing. But they’ve been denied NHS contracts for too long, and are still being denied them despite being NHS employees. This is not only immoral but, as we will show, unlawful” he said. “This lawsuit will be a permanent stain on the already tarnished reputation of GOSH. And it should also send a strong message to other NHS Trusts out there, that if you outsource your facilities workers and don’t give them NHS contracts, then we’ll be coming for you in the courts and on the picket line.”
Watch this space!
More information on their victory and how they were brought in-house here >>
16.01.2024 / HARRODS