Hospital workers are starting a three-day strike over pay today amid allegations of bullying by their employers.
The Blackpool Vic cleaners, and caterers, porters, receptionists and security workers in St Helens employed by private firm Compass have been battling for a pay rise since July and have staged two previous strikes.
And their union Unison says staff who have spoken out about low pay are now being individually targeted and disciplined by the firm.
Blackpool South Labour MP Gordon Marsden said “bullying tactics” must stop and a resolution to the pay dispute must be found.
Most of the 300 workers at the Vic and in St Helens involved are paid only the minimum wage rate of £8.21 an hour, yet work alongside colleagues who are employed directly by the NHS, where the lowest rate is £9.03 an hour.
This difference of 82p an hour is worth £1,500 a year, the union says.
On top of the lower hourly rate of pay, Compass staff get no shift bonuses for working weekends and bank holidays and, they receive only statutory sick pay, whereas their NHS colleagues have a comprehensive sick pay scheme.
Unison regional organiser Pat Woolham said: “The way Compass is treating its staff is a disgrace.
“The fact a company that made £1.5bn in profit last year refuses to agree an 82p pay rise for its lowest-paid staff is shocking enough. But to add insult to injury, Compass is now punitively and gratuitously targeting dedicated hospital workers who have spoken out about this grave injustice.
“The multi-national outsourcing giant has opened disciplinary proceedings against several strikers, one of whom is a Unison representative and another has been nominated to become a union rep. Their crime is simply speaking honestly to the media about their personal finances and experiences of working on minimum wage.”
Gordon Marsden said: “said: “Compass are acting completely unfairly and they must strongly reconsider their position.
“When they made over a billion pounds last year in profit, they can definitely afford to give their cleaners a pay rise for doing the same job as those employed by the NHS.
“It’s time for Compass to drop the bullying tactics and engage with its staff through Unison to end this dispute.”
A spokesman for Compass parent company, Medirest 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 set out in our client contracts and agreed in partnership with our NHS Trust clients. On this basis, Medirest has been discussing pay agreements with employees, union representatives and our Trust clients since May, endeavouring to reach a fair settlement. We remain committed to finding a resolution to this dispute and while we’re disappointed with UNISON’s decision to take industrial action, we recognise the right of our employees to take part in this strike.
“Our focus is to ensure that we maintain our duty of care and the high standards expected from Medirest and our Trust clients.”