42 private staff at Blackpool Vic to strike over minimum wage row

Blackpool Vic staff to go on strike. Picture provided by UNISON
Blackpool Vic staff to go on strike. Picture provided by UNISON
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Caterers, cleaners, porters, security guards and receptionists are set to strike at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

42 members of staff employed by private contractor Compass within the hospital have unanimously voted to take strike action at the end of the month over their employer’s failure to match NHS pay rates, says UNISON.

Compass staff are largely paid the minimum wage rate of £8.21 an hour, despite working alongside people who are employed directly by the NHS, where the lowest rate is £9.03 an hour. This difference of 82p an hour is worth £1,600 a year for full-time staff, says UNISON.

A spokesman said: "After Compass refused to give its staff a wage rise in line with that paid to NHS employees last year, UNISON asked its members whether they wished to go on strike over the issue. The result was that 100 per cent of respondents voted to take industrial action.

"Compass staff working within St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust have also been balloted by UNISON, with staff in both trusts also voting 100 per cent in favour of action."

A one day strike will take place within all three NHS trusts on Wednesday July 31 if talks between UNISON and Compass 'are not able to reach a successful conclusion'.

Joanne Thomson, a domestic assistant employed by Compass at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, said: “I am paid hundreds of pounds less every month than some of my colleagues who do exactly the same job as me. It’s just not fair.

“I have a 12 year old daughter to look after and at the moment I have to work twenty hours of overtime every week just to get by.

“It’s hard supporting a family on my own and if Compass agreed to pay us that extra 80p an hour, it would make a big difference.”

Michelle Tymon, a UNISON representative who also works for Compass but gets the higher NHS rate, said: “I am fully supportive of my striking colleagues.

“We all do exactly the same work and yet those of us lucky to be on NHS contracts earn thousands of pounds more per year. We all play our part in keeping the health service going and it’s only right we all receive proper NHS pay and conditions."

UNISON North West regional organiser Lisa Walsh said: “It’s completely wrong that staff working side by side together within the NHS are getting different rates for the job.

“On top of the issue of hourly pay, those on Agenda for Change (NHS) contracts are receiving shift bonuses and better sick pay schemes.

“All of these workers deserve an NHS contract for an NHS job – it’s time for the two tier workforce to end.

“The 100 per cent mandate for strike action shows how strongly these dedicated hospital staff feel about this issue.

“Compass made £1.7bn in profit last year. They should put their hands into their deep pockets and find the 82p per hour that would make little difference to their profits but would be a huge help to NHS workers in St Helens, Blackpool and Liverpool.”

The Compass Group and Blackpool Victoria Hospital have been contacted for comment.