Struggling cleaners at The Harbour to strike over 'shabby' sick pay

Privately-employed cleaners at The Harbour and seven other hospitals and mental health units in the North West have announced a three-day strike after their demands for equal pay were not met.

By Wes Holmes
Friday, 17th June 2022, 12:30 pm

Some 50 staff, including porters, caterers and cleaners, employed by OCS Group UK will hold the picket line from June 29 until July 1 due to the care company’s refusal to match NHS sick pay and annual holiday rates.

The long-running dispute, which involves The Harbour in Blackpool, 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, dates back to 2021.

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Disgruntled domestics and catering staff employed by private firm OCS outside The Harbour in Blackpool

Following talks with UNISON, the trade union, OCS bosses agreed to increase staff wages to match NHS pay rates, resulting in a 69p increase to £10.19 per hour in April this year.

But, unlike employees working directly for the NHS, OCS workers get no extra money for night, weekend or bank holiday shifts.

Ill OCS employees also receive statutory sick pay of just £96 per week, while NHS staff receive full wages. This means many are forced to keep working when unwell because they can’t afford to be off, UNISON said.

One OCS employee said: “Many visitors and patients are not aware we work for a private firm and are living hand to mouth because of low pay. We all work for the NHS and OCS staff should not be treated differently from everyone else.”

The Harbour, in Preston New Road, Marton

Another said: “The hospital couldn’t function without the work done by OCS staff. Prices are soaring and everyone is struggling to pay their bills. We are key workers and should be paid fairly.”

UNISON North West regional organiser Dale Ollier said: “OCS staff should be paid in full when poorly, receive the same as NHS colleagues for night or weekend work and be allowed to take the same amount of holiday.

“No one wants services to be disrupted but OCS and trust bosses have been ignoring these workers for more than a year. Employees doing similar jobs should be treated the same, regardless of who they work for.

“Retail, hospitality and online distribution firms are now paying better rates to attract and keep the staff they need. OCS will struggle to hold on to its staff if it continues to treat them so shabbily.

“The healthcare sector is already struggling to fill vacancies. Failing to resolve this dispute will see staff vacancy rates rise and that will have an impact on patient care.”