Thank you for contacting me about employment conditions of security guards working at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).
I pay tribute to security guards and all facilities staff working across our NHS who always go above and beyond to support our health service to provide the best care to patients. They are as much NHS heroes as the doctors, nurses and paramedics. Yet sadly that is not always recognised.
As you know, security guards based at GOSH are outsourced to private contractors and are not in the direct employment of the NHS. As a result, they are not afforded equal terms and conditions as in-house staff, such as access to full sick pay or maternity pay.
I agree that we need to put an end to subcontractors that undermine decent terms and conditions within our NHS. I fully support the principle of a one-team approach in a public NHS, where the services required are predominantly provided by the NHS or other public bodies, not the fragmentation of parts of the health service that we currently see.
While I recognise that private providers may sometimes have to assist with additional capacity, the NHS must be the preferred provider and exceptions made only where there is a good reason why that should not be the case.
Almost five years has passed since an independent report on improving modern working practices made recommendations to the Government. Yet Ministers have been too slow to act. We are still waiting for an Employment Bill to improve workers’ rights, which was first promised in 2019 but has repeatedly been left out of the Government’s legislative programme.
Years of NHS underfunding, cuts and understaffing by this Conservative Government have weakened and exposed our health service as the pandemic hit. As a direct result, waiting lists now stand at a record 5.7 million, with over 292,000 patients waiting for more than a year for treatment.
I believe everyone must have security, prosperity and respect in the workplace. I am pleased the Labour has published a Green Paper on Employment Rights, which includes proposals for a single status of ‘worker’, so that all employees have the same rights and protections – including rights to sick pay, holiday pay, parental leave and protection against unfair dismissal – from day one on the job.
Unfortunately because of parliamentary convention I am restricted from signing any EDMs due to my position as Shadow Secretary of State for Transport.
However I will continue to urge Ministers to end the wholesale outsourcing of NHS services and give key workers the dignity and security they deserve. Outsourcing, zero-hours contracts and agency work drive down pay, standards and conditions across the whole economy. We need an economy built on fair pay, job security, dignity and equality at work.