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Cleaners call off six days of strikes at Harlow hospital after bosses safeguard jobs

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Caroline Hennessy (11800288)
Caroline Hennessy (11800288)

Cleaners at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow on Wednesday (June 5) called off six days of strikes after management dropped plans to outsource their jobs.

The NHS trust which runs the Hamstel Road site, along with Herts and Essex Community Hospital in Bishop's Stortford, had been market-testing its domestic and catering services with the aim of putting them out to tender.

But following a campaign by the 200 domestics, supported by their union UNISON, trust bosses 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 on Thursday (June 6).

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 an 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 PAH 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 both from our colleagues in the hospital 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."

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