NHS staff at Merseyside hospitals announce 48-hour strike after years of being underpaid

Pay fair for patient care. Getting it right for healthcare support staff

Over 400 health staff at Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (WUTH) will take strike action this month in a dispute over pay, says UNISON today (Thursday).

The strike will take place at 7am on Thursday 31 August through to 6:59am on Saturday 2 September after an overwhelming majority (99%) of clinical support workers voted to strike in a recent UNISON ballot.

Clinical support workers (CSWs) assist nursing staff in delivering care on the wards. They’re employed across the trust’s sites at Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge hospitals on the Wirral.

UNISON says these employees should be paid at least £2,000 more a year because they are performing duties and tasks well above their pay grade.

The NHS says that CSWs on a low pay band* like those at WUTH should only be undertaking personal care like supporting patients with going to the toilet, bathing and feeding.

But a survey by the union has found that most CSWs at the band 2 pay scale are routinely undertaking clinical tasks like taking and monitoring blood, electrocardiogram (ECG) tests, and inserting cannulas.

UNISON says that according to NHS job role profiles, all these duties should be paid according to at least a band 3 salary, which is nearly £2,000 a year more.

A total of seven health trusts across the North West have moved many low-paid CSWs staff onto the higher rate, and paid the affected staff backpay to April 2018. This is in response to campaigns by UNISON.

However, WUTH has refused to draw up a similar agreement, despite a months-long campaign, including a collective grievance signed by over 400 staff.

Instead, the trust has offered to backdate pay to their CSWs to December 2022. This would mean these employees would receive thousands of pounds less than those in other North West trusts.

This strike will be the first on this issue in England. All other trusts have settled this issue through negotiation, says UNISON.

UNISON North West regional organiser David McKnight said: “Taking strike action is no easy decision. These clinical support workers are dedicated to providing outstanding care to people across the Wirral. But the trust is defiantly refusing these workers what they’re owed and insisting that they provide care on the cheap.

“The workers have been reasonable throughout, they submitted a collective grievance and met with the trust many times to try to resolve the situation. Our members are open to resolving this dispute via negotiation if the Trust make an offer in line with agreements elsewhere in the North West.

“The majority of CSWs have been working well above their band for many years. It’s time the trust did the right thing and paid up to avoid strike action.”

Jo, a clinical support worker at Arrowe Park Hospital, said: “For many years CSW’s have been doing extra tasks above our pay grade to help and support our nursing staff and doctors.  The past few years our workload has increased, and the majority of our shifts involve doing Band 3 tasks but we have only been paid Band 2 with no talk of this ever changing.

“Nursing staff, clinics, and theatres all rely on us doing these extra jobs so their departments run smoothly.  The trust refuses to acknowledge that we have been working at a Band 3 level, when all they’d need to do is speak to anybody who works in the hospital and they’d be told exactly what duties we all routinely perform.

“Striking is our only option is because we have exhausted every other channel. We just want our employer to ackowledge the truth. We have worked above our pay grade for years and they have saved money by not paying us properly.

“This campaign won’t stop until we’re paid the same as what other trusts have offered. Wirral CSWs are not worth any less than those elsewhere.”

Notes to editors:

–*Band 2 CSWs should only undertake personal care duties according to NHS guidance. They are currently paid £22,383 annually whereas band 3 staff earn between £22,816 and £24,336 after two years in the job.

– Click here for images of the workers campaigning outside the trust’s headquarters.

– The trusts that have resolved the issue over CSW pay are: the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust; Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust; Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust; Stockport NHS Foundation Trust; Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust; the Christie NHS Foundation Trust; and Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust.

– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contact:

Sam Doherty  E: s.doherty@unison.co.uk  M: 07432 459759