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30.03.2023 / News /

GOSH cleaners make headlines in historic “institutional racism” court case

After a momentous ten-day tribunal hearing in early March, the brave cleaners and UVW members at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), suing their employer for historic indirect race discrimination, are patiently waiting for a ruling, which – if in their favour – could change their lives and potentially end the unscrupulous practice of outsourcing in the National Health Service (NHS). 

As the hearings came to a close, the group of 80 Black, brown and migrant cleaners were as resolute as they were stoical in their fight for justice. The hospital workers had laid bare the reality of the structural inequality that they had faced for years while they were outsourced to private contractors. The clarity of their testimony stood out in stark contrast to the legal sophistry of the GOSH lawyers.

This is the first time a lawsuit of this type has been brought against an NHS Trust, where the workers are claiming compensation in excess of £10 million for the years they were denied NHS pay rates. The possible repercussions of this unprecedented claim are serious and the case has caught the eye of the media, who covered the story. When the result comes we expect it to be big news too. In interviews with the press, the cleaners explained getting here had been “painful”, as they reflected on how easily the trial could have been avoided.

For decades the cleaners were outsourced on lesser terms and conditions than other directly employed GOSH workers, which led to a dispute between UVW and GOSH in 2020. Eventually, after a successful UVW campaign, the GOSH cleaners forced the hospital to ditch its cleaning private contractor and employ them as NHS workers. Now, they are demanding compensation for the years they were employed privately under inferior terms. If the court finds for them, each claimant could be awarded between £80,000 and £190,000 each. 

UVW is hopeful the GOSH claim will succeed following the groundbreaking legal precedent set against the Royal Parks. In December 2021, UVW helped outsourced Royal Park attendants win a landmark court case where an Employment Tribunal ruled that their lower pay was unlawful because it amounted to indirect race discrimination. This was such a pivotal win for UVW the British government has applied to intervene in the case to appeal against the Tribunal’s ruling, fearing a proliferation of “copycat” claims. The appeal will be heard in April 2023. The union has also launched several similar claims with St George’s University London which is currently being appealed. 

As we wait, the struggle continues! 

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