Interview: RVH Security Officers keep up their fight against cuts

From last October security officers at the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) in Belfast have mounted a determined campaign against cuts. This campaign began because security officers could no longer stand by and watch the Belfast Trust systematically dismantle the security department through massive job cuts and attacks on their terms and conditions. The service has already seen over half the workforce cut. A review of the security service by the senior management will result in increased workload and responsibility, risking the health and safety of patients, staff and security officers. The Socialist spoke with one security officer on the current status of their courageous fight against cuts. Due to threats of disciplinary action, this interview was given anonymously.

 

The Socialist (TS):  What is the current situation with the campaign?

Security Officer (SO): At the moment, the committee of security reps is in the process of re-invigorating the campaign after Christmas. The work carried out to publicise the cuts in security prior to Christmas has been excellent and has built the basis to broaden the campaign amongst other departments into the New Year. We carried out a very successful leafleting and petition with over 1000 signatures from across all sections of the workforce. This will be issued to our unions as a means to build support and endorsement of the our campaign.

TS: There is a joint trade union committee made of reps from Unite, Unison and Nipsa. What has the response been like from unions officials?

SO: It would be a lie if I said that it was positive from the start and we weren’t naïve to believe that it would be easy, as there has been very little support from the union leaders against these cuts. This was the reason we started a joint trade union committee of security workers so we could maintain control of the entire decision making through any negotiations between the unions and management. The very public campaign in the Royal has certainly put pressure on the unions. Nipsa has agreed to support the committee and discussions with Unite continue. But Unison has still to endorse the committee.

TS: At one point there was threats of disciplinary action by management, what was the response by the workers?

SO: This was very worrying at the time as we didn’t have any endorsement by the unions at that stage. But we understood this was an attempt by management to frighten us into dropping our campaign. We felt this was a critical time because if we backed down we would have been finished. We decided to up our campaign with posters along with the leafleting. In the end the threats receded as management realised we would not back down. We had also gained the support of Nipsa at this time.

TS: What do you think the unions should be doing in respect to your issue and the public sector cuts in general?

SO: It seems to me that the cuts that we have suffered and what is coming can only be resisted because if they are not; workers are only going to pay with their job, their pay and increased mortgages and food bills. The unions have to join together and mount a serious campaign of protests and strikes across the country. This is the only way we can beat these cuts.

TS: It appears you have a solid committee and good support from health workers across the Royal. What is the strategy from here?

SO: The plan is simple, re-start the public campaign and expand it beyond the grounds of the Royal. We will continue to discuss with our unions. We also intend to build links with other groups of workers as we have made some very important contacts in nursing and domestic services. We also feel it is important that we bring these issues out to the public at large and the committee is in discussions with the local press about an extensive article on the cuts. This will bring the campaign onto a whole new level.

 

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