Today, Saturday 21st April, hundreds of activists across the country descended on Virgin branches to defend the NHS from privatisation.
PCS R&C Euston Tower branch joined approximately 50 people protesting in Oxford Street where the message was shouted loud and clear, ‘Keep Branson out of the NHS.’
We started outside the Virgin Mobile branch before going inside to occupy it. After the Police politely asked us to leave we moved on to The Plaza, intending to visit the Virgin Active branch but hampered by The Plaza having shut its doors before we got there (the security guards were friendly and beyond reproach). We held a protest outside, handing hundreds of leaflets to passers by and making many previously unaware people aware of the problems the Health and Social Care Act entails.
You might think that shutting down a branch of a business on a Saturday afternoon is harming consumers and, possibly, the economy. Bear in mind that the Health and Social Care Bill passed in to an act with little mention in the mainstream media, despite over a hundred thousand signatures on a government petition opposing it and the opposition of health groups and the majority of NHS staff. Unlike the government PCS and other activists don’t have the mainstream media at our disposal so protests, occupations and leafleting are the main way we can make an opposing voice heard.
You might ask why this is relevant to branch members. There are several reasons:
- As HMRC employees we take money from the public, money which the public could quite rightly assume will be spent on public services. Part of that money is to fund our National Health Service. Should some of that money be skimmed off to enrich Virgin and the other private companies which are buying up chunks of the NHS? Do the public really want their tax going to shareholders rather than services? Do we really want to be collecting tax which will go to private concerns rather than hospital beds?
- PCS members are tax payers too. We rely on the NHS as much as everybody else. In our branch’s borough we’ve already seen a surgery close as a result of privatisation. More trivially but indicative of the future are the private companies which supply televisions to hospitals and charge patients to watch BBC channels they’ve already paid for through the licence fee, in hospitals they’ve already paid for through taxation.
- As trade union members and public sector workers we know that privatisation leads to hammering staffs’ terms and conditions, driving down pay, casualisation of the workforce and attacking everything which trade unions have fought to win.
The fight to keep privatisation out of the NHS is lost. The fight to kick it back out of the NHS has just begun.
Please read this article on the Open Democracy website for more background: When camaraderie is for show: Virgin loves the London Marathon, helps dismantle the NHS
You can read posts on this site about privatisation here: http://pcseuston.org.uk/tag/privatisation/