Cleaners at Blackpool Victoria Hospital have gone on strike in protest of 'unfair' pay rates.
Staff employed by private contractor Compass formed a picket line outside the hospital on Whinney Heys Road this morning.
Other cleaners, caterers, porters, receptionists and security guards employed by the company in the St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust are also taking strike action today over their employers’ failure to match NHS pay rates and working conditions, says UNISON
Most of the 252 workers, including 46 Blackpool Vic employees, 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. This difference of 82p an hour is worth £1,600 a year for full-time staff.
UNISON, the public service union, said: "On top of the lower hourly rate of pay, Compass staff are also disadvantaged by receiving 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."
They said the company made an offer to Whiston and St Helens Hospital workers, which was unanimously rejected at meetings which took place over the weekend - but that no offer had been made to the cleaners in Blackpool.
UNISON North West regional organiser Pat Woolham said: “In the last week, Compass made a derisory offer in a desperate attempt to avoid today’s strike.
“UNISON members met to discuss the offer, unanimously deciding to reject the offer and press on with strike action. These brave hospital workers are completely united and will stick together until they receive fair treatment from Compass.
“It’s simply wrong that two people doing the same job within our hospitals are being paid completely different rates- this can’t be allowed to continue any longer.
“Compass made £1.7bn in profit last year alone, we refuse to accept that they can’t afford an 82p pay rise for the lowest paid staff in the NHS.
“We hope that Compass will work with us to solve this issue, but if a reasonable offer is not forthcoming then they can expect further strikes in the near future.”
A spokesman for Medirest, part of the Compass Group, 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.
“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 during any strikes. We remain open to an ongoing, thorough and constructive dialogue to find a resolution.”