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GOSH cleaners confront hospital in ground-breaking court case over years of “institutional racism”

Yesterday saw the start of a 10-day tribunal hearing where Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) faces a first of a kind group claim for indirect race discrimination brought by 80 Black, brown and migrant cleaners.

For decades, the cleaners were outsourced on lesser terms and conditions than other directly employed GOSH workers, which led to a dispute between United Voices of the World (UVW) and GOSH in 2020 over the structural inequality the hospital workers have faced. In 2021, the GOSH cleaners forced the hospital to ditch its cleaning private contractor and employ them as NHS workers.Contracts for NHS staff are governed by the 2004 Agenda for Change (AfC) which provides much better conditions than privately outsourced workers. Now, the cleaners want compensation for the years they were employed privately under inferior terms. If the court finds in favour of the workers, each claimant could be awarded between £80,000 and £190,000 each.

This is the first time a lawsuit of this type has been brought against an NHS Trust. UVW is hopeful the claim will succeed following the ground-breaking legal precedent set against the Royal Parks.

Genevieve, one of the claimants and a UVW member, said from the court: “Although I am very nervous, I am standing up for my rights because we’ve been cheated for a very long time and this has made me feel very bad at work. I hope we win the case, whatever happens my union is excellent, UVW always has our back and to GOSH, you need to do the right thing and recognise my union.

“The only way to fight discrimination at work is to get together and join a union. A union, like UVW, that will fight with you shoulder to shoulder. The cleaners at GOSH know this now. We stood firm and we fought to be brought back in house and we won. Now we will use the courts to right an injustice.”

Petros Elia, General Secretary for UVW, said: “UVW is dedicated to organising workers to fight back against this practice and we’ve got the best record in the union movement for doing it through legal action such as the Royal Parks and strike action in University and hospitals. If we win it could lead to back pay for members exceeding £10 million cumulatively. But more importantly it could mark the death knell of the privatisation of facilities services in the NHS. I hope this claim will shine a light on the institutional inequality prevalent in the NHS, and other public sector institutions, that Thatcher mandated for 40 years ago, and encourage outsourced workers, regardless of race, to rise up and strike to win equality.”

About Sarah OBeirne

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