NHS staff at Merseyside hospitals vote to strike after years of being underpaid

Hundreds of staff are underpaid for clinical tasks

More than 400 health staff at Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (WUTH) have voted for strike action over pay, says UNISON today (Friday).

An overwhelming majority (99%) of clinical support workers voted to strike in a recent UNISON ballot. Industrial action is now imminent unless the trust makes an improved offer to staff, says the union.

Clinical support workers (CSWs) deliver essential care alongside nursing staff 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 bottom of 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 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.

A petition in support of the workers, addressed to trust chief executive Janelle Holmes and chair Sir David Henshaw, has received more than 1,600 signatures.

UNISON North West regional organiser David McKnight said: “Clinical support workers want to provide exceptional care to people across the Wirral. But the trust has exploited the goodwill of dedicated staff by getting them to provide care on the cheap.

“The workers have been reasonable throughout. They’ve submitted a collective grievance and met with the trust many times to try to resolve the situation.

“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.”

Deborah, a clinical support worker at Arrowe Park Hospital, said: “Staff feel taken for granted. These clinical tasks are part and parcel of the job and the hospitals wouldn’t function if CSWs didn’t work above their pay grade.

“It looks like WUTH will be the first trust in the country where it will take strike action to resolve this issue. It shouldn’t have come to this. No one wants to strike but staff are determined and ready to fight for what they deserve.”

Sarah, a clinical support worker at Arrowe Park Hospital, said: “This job requires a high level of compassion for our patients, so voting for strike action was a difficult decision.

“But if we need to strike to get fair pay and recognition then one hundred per cent we will. Dedicated, skilled, compassionate people are leaving to take better paid jobs elsewhere.

“The trust has underpaid us for years and it really hurts that managers won’t acknowledge this. We won’t stop until we get what we’re owed.

“For me and many others, five years is a small fraction of what has been decades-long service.”

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 contacts:
Sam Doherty E: s.doherty@unison.co.uk M: 07432 459759
Liz Chinchen E: press@unison.co.uk M: 07778 158175