Picket lines at Blackpool Victoria Hospital as privately-contracted workers strike over pay

Staff at Blackpool Victoria Hospital employed by private contractor Compass have staged a two-day strike over what they claim is their employers’ failure to match NHS pay rates and working conditions.

By Tony Durkin
Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 1:51 pm
A Unison picket line at Blackpool Victoria Hospital
A Unison picket line at Blackpool Victoria Hospital

It follows by a similar protest by the cleaners, caterers, porters, receptionists and security workers involved in July and they formed picket lines at the Vic to make their point.

They claim that most of the workers affected 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.

The difference of 82p an hour is worth £1,600 a year for full-time staff, the union says, adding that Compass staff are further disadvantaged by receiving no shift bonuses for working weekends and bank holidays.

Unison members make their point at Blackpool Victoria Hospital

In addition, ithey receive only statutory sick pay, whereas their NHS colleagues are able to access a comprehensive sick pay scheme.

UNISON North West regional organiser Lisa Oxbury said: “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.

“Our members are struggling to stay afloat.

“Compass boss Dominic Blakemore was paid an eye-watering £4.6m 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.”

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. We remain open to an ongoing and constructive dialogue to find a resolution.”

A spokesperson for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The Trust has made arrangements to ensure the industrial action by some Compass employees will not impact on patients using the hospital.”