Staff employed by private contractor Compass within Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust were due to begin two days of strike action today over pay rates and working conditions.
The cleaners, caterers, porters, receptionists and security workers are paid 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.
The difference of 82p an hour is worth £1,600 a year for full-time staff, the union says.
Compass staff claim they receive no shift bonuses for working weekends and bank holidays. In addition, they receive only statutory sick pay, whereas their NHS colleagues are able to access a comprehensive sick pay scheme.
Since the hospital staff announced their plans to strike, Unison met with Compass to seek a resolution to the dispute.
This is the second round of action and follows a one-day strike on July 31.
Mandy Duckworth, a Compass-employed domestic worker said: “It’s completely unfair that we’re stuck on minimum wage when we work alongside colleagues who earn much more than us. We’re treated like we’re two-a-penny.
“They also have better enhancements for unsociable hours, get more annual leave and have a proper sick pay scheme. The way we’re treated makes it feel like workers with NHS contracts are more important than us.
“The pay rise would make a big difference to my family. My partner and I both work for Compass – he works a lot of evenings and weekends but barely gets any more than the basic rate of pay for it. We’re treated like second-class workers.”
Unison North West regional organiser Lisa Oxbury said: “In the past few weeks, Compass has thrown together an offer for its St Helens and Whiston employees in a desperate attempt to avoid today’s strike.
“These workers have been substantially underpaid for almost 18 months and yet the backpay from Compass is a paltry £80 in most cases. This is an insult, not an olive branch.
“Compass views its con“Compass boss Dominic Blakemore was paid an eye-watering £4.6 million last year. The company’s profits doubled to £1.7bn. They could settle this dispute with the click of a finger if they wanted and yet they’ve not offered a penny to their cleaners in Blackpool.
“Compass still doesn’t seem to understand why staff are on strike. These dedicated NHS workers simply want to be part of the health service team, with fair pay and treatment. Our cleaners, caterers, porters, reception and security staff make a huge contribution to the NHS.
“They deserve the NHS rate for the job, enhancements for unsociable hours and a health service sick pay scheme.”