Cleaners at The Harbour announce four more days of strike action as row over unequal pay continues

Porters, catering staff and cleaners at The Harbour mental health hospital have announced four more days of strike action as their fight for equal pay reaches a stalemate.

By Wes Holmes
Wednesday, 20th July 2022, 12:30 pm

Staff members employed private contractor OCS at eight NHS sites across LancashireThe Harbour, Guild Lodge in Preston, Wesham rehabilitation unit, Royal Blackburn Hospital, the Daisyfield Mill Clinic and the Mount Clinic in Accrington, Ormskirk District General Hospital, and Balladen House in Rossendale – went on strike for three days last month after bosses refused to meet demands for the same sick pay and annual leave as NHS staff.

They have now announced four further walk-outs on July 26, 27, 31, and August 1 – with promises to escalate the strikes throughout the summer unless OCS and Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust agrees to pay staff NHS rates for nights, weekends and Bank Holidays, provide full sick pay, provide the same annual leave as the NHS, and back-date a wage increase to the date it was agreed.

Staff on strike at The Harbour

The dispute is about making sure that everyone in the NHS is paid the same, in line with our national agreements, trade union UNISON said.

Just before the previous strike, several workers wrote an open letter to Trust Chief Executive Caroline Donovan to ask her to intervene to settle the dispute.

UNISON regional organiser Dale Ollier said: “These are NHS workers contracted out to a company that makes millions in profit each year. What they are asking for is both affordable and fair.

“No-one wants to see services disrupted, but OCS and Trust managers need to make sure workers doing the same job are treated the same. NHS Trusts should not be outsourcing services to avoid the pay and conditions that have been agreed nationally for all NHS staff.

“These workers have sent two letters offering to meet with Trust board members to explain their plight, but so far no-one has taken them up on their offer.”

In their most recent letter, the workers said: “We love the NHS and we are proud to say that we are part of it. We are also proud to have played our part on the front line during the Covid-19 pandemic, keeping services open and patients safe.

“But we don’t understand why we’re not treated the same as everybody else. It’s hard coming into work knowing we are not valued in the same way.”