Victory for Princess Alexandra domestics on eve of strike

Domestics at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow today called off six days of planned strikes after their employer dropped plans to outsource their jobs.

The Trust had been market testing its cleaning and catering services with the aim of putting them out to tender, claiming just last week that it would take until at least August to make a decision.

But following a resolute campaign by the 200 domestics, supported by UNISON, Princess Alexandra backed down, pledging to keep the service in house.

UNISON warned outsourcing would lead to lower standards of cleanliness and create a two-tier workforce.

Domestics voted by 99% to strike against the changes and were preparing to take six days of action starting tomorrow before the Trust backed down.

UNISON regional organiser Caroline Hennessy said: “The domestics have waged an absolutely awe-inspiring campaign in defence not just of their jobs, but the entire NHS.

“They made it clear from the outset that they wouldn’t accept the privatisation of their services and by standing together they’ve won an incredible victory.

“But it shouldn’t have taken this long – the Trust has left this threat hanging over its loyal workers for months, leaving them in limbo when all they wanted was to stay in the NHS family.

“Princess Alexandra now has to make up for ill-advised attack on its workers. It should start by properly investing in its domestic staff and services. We look forward to working with the Trust on this in the coming months.”

Lyndsey Johnstone, a domestic at Princess Alexandra and UNISON rep, said: “We’re over the moon to have won our fight to stay in the NHS.

“Domestics never wanted to go on strike but we had no other way to defend our jobs and our patients.

“We’ve been blown away by the support we’ve had from our colleagues in the hospital, the people of Harlow and from our fellow trade unionists around the country. Thanks to everyone who has supported us and helped us stop further privatisation of our NHS.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This is a stunning victory that sends a strong message to other hospitals considering privatising core services. The determination and focus of our members has ensured their jobs stay part of the NHS.

“Striking is always a last resort, but while hospital bosses were dithering, workers felt they had no other choice than to take action to defend their jobs and the standard of the service they provide. I am so proud they have stood strong and they are part of our union.”