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Cleaners take Great Ormond Street Hospital to court over alleged indirect race discrimination

A GROUP of formerly outsourced cleaners are taking Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) to a groundbreaking employment tribunal, alleging indirect race discrimination. 

The unprecedented 10-day hearing – the first lawsuit of its type against an NHS trust – could see the 80 black and minority ethnic staff awarded between £80,000 and £190,000 each if the tribunal finds in their favour.

For decades, the cleaners were employed on worse terms and conditions than in-house staff at the world-famous London children’s hospital, leading to a dispute in 2020 between management and the United Voices of the World (UVW) union.

The following year, the workers forced the hospital to ditch its private cleaning contractor and employ them as NHS workers on better pay and conditions.

They now want compensation for the years they missed out, the union said. 

Before the first day of the hearing on Wednesday, claimant Genevieve said: “Although I am very nervous, I am standing up for my rights because we’ve been cheated for a very long time. 

“I hope we win the case, but 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 that will fight with you shoulder to shoulder.

“The GOSH cleaners stood firm, we fought to be brought back in-house and we won. Now we will use the courts to right an injustice.”

The union said it is hopeful the claim will succeed following the legal precedent it recently won against Royal Parks.

In 2021, UVW helped outsourced attendants – employed by the charity to maintain the capital’s eight royal parks – win a landmark case at a separate employment tribunal, which ruled that their lower pay was unlawful because it amounted to indirect race discrimination.

The “pivotal win” saw Tory ministers intervene and challenge the ruling, which an appeal hearing set for next month.

UVW general secretary Petros Elia said the latest case could “mark the death knell of the privatisation of NHS facilities services. 

“I hope this claim will shine a light on the institutional inequality prevalent in the NHS and other public-sector institutions and encourage outsourced workers to rise up and strike.”

The hospital was contacted for comment.

 

Correction: The headline of this article has been changed from ‘Former cleaners take Great Ormond Street Hospital ….’ because the cleaners still work at the hospital. They were formerly outsourced. The web desk apologies for any confusion caused.

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