Cleaners at Blackpool Victoria Hospital return to the picket line today in their fifth round of strike action over unequal pay.
Around 40 cleaning staff at the Vic employed by private contractor Compass, and a further 260 cleaning, portering and catering staff at St Helens Hospital, will strike today over the company’s failure to match NHS pay rates.
They are paid a minimum wage of £8.21 per hour, while their NHS-employed colleagues are paid £9.03. The 82p difference is worth around £1,500 a year for full-time staff, says the workers’ union UNISON.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “These hospital staff deserve to be paid NHS rates – it’s as simple as that.
"Outsourcing has created a two-tier system that does nothing for patients and merely generates profits for company shareholders. The sooner the next government stops the creeping spread of privatisation in public services, the better.”
UNISON North West regional organiser Lisa Oxbury said: “There is growing concern up and down the country that NHS privatisation is having a negative impact on patient safety, cleanliness, food quality, efficiency and the fair treatment of health service staff.
“In St Helens and Blackpool, the staff know only too well the impact of NHS outsourcing. Multi-billion pound Compass has no interest in local patients or staff, its focus is simply striving to deliver a profit. That has come about by paying hospital staff less than the NHS rate for the job.
“It’s NHS patients, as well as hospital staff and their families who lose out. Millions of pounds are being sucked out of our local economy and dedicated hospital workers have been forced back out on strike just before Christmas. It’s time for the two NHS trusts in St Helens and Blackpool to say enough is enough. It’s down to them to get Compass under control or bring the services back in-house."
A Medirest spokesman said: “People are at the heart of our business and working alongside our clients, we are committed to trying to resolve this issue. Pay rates are agreed in partnership with our NHS Trust clients. On this basis, Medirest has been discussing pay agreements with the union representatives and our Trust clients since May, endeavouring to reach a fair settlement, and we are due to meet with them again this week.
“While we’re disappointed with UNISON’s decision to take industrial action, our focus is to ensure that we maintain our duty of care and the high standards expected from Medirest and our Trust clients. We remain open to an ongoing and constructive dialogue to find a resolution.”