Outsourced staff at three NHS trusts in north west England will strike for pay equality in two weeks unless their employer Compass agrees to match NHS rates.
UNISON has issued official strike notifications covering workers at St Helens and Knowsley teaching hospitals, Blackpool teaching hospitals and Liverpool heart and chest hospitals. One-day strikes will take place on 31 July if current talks between the union and Compass don’t produce a solution, after workers at all three trusts produced 100% votes for action, on turnouts of between 66.7% and 78.6%.
The members involved are catering, cleaning, security, portering and reception staff. Most of them are on the national minimum wage of just £8.21 an hour. But they work alongside colleagues – either directly employed by the NHS or employed by Compass on TUPE-protected NHS terms – who are paid at least £9.03 an hour.
That 82p an hour difference amounts to a loss of £1,600 a year for full-time workers, says UNISON.
“It’s disheartening to work alongside colleagues doing the same job who are getting paid more than you,” says St Helens hospital Compass porter Donovan Rowe.
“It’s affecting staff morale and creating a divide between staff on NHS contracts and the rest of us. We do the same jobs and it’s only right that we get the same pay.
“I’m working weekend and night shifts, but unlike my NHS colleagues, don’t earn any extra for doing these.” As well as a higher pay rate, staff employed on NHS Agenda for Change terms receive unsocial hours payments and better sick pay.
But without these, says Donovan: “At times I’ve worked 45 hours overtime a month just to get by. If we got the pay rise, I would be able to work my contracted hours every week and have more time to spend with my family.”
UNISON rep Michelle Tymon also works for Compass, but because she was transferred from the NHS she gets the Agenda for Change rate for the job.
“We all do exactly the same work and yet those of us lucky to be on NHS contracts earn thousands of pounds more per year,” she says.
“We all play our part in keeping the health service going and it’s only right we all receive proper NHS pay and conditions.”
And she adds: “I am fully supportive of my striking colleagues.”
UNISON regional organiser Lisa Walsh points out that Compass made £1.7bn profit last year. She says the company should “put their hands into their deep pockets and find the 82p per hour that would make little difference to their profits but would be a huge help to NHS workers in St Helens, Blackpool and Liverpool.”