Wirral hospitals strike paused as workers win back pay after lengthy campaign

Healthcare staff rebanding payments on the table

A strike planned for next week by more than 500 clinical support workers (CSWs) at Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has been called off after the employer agreed to UNISON’s demand for five years of back pay, says the union today (Friday).

The development follows a UNISON campaign over several months, during which workers were on strike for 13 days ahead of the latest offer.

The staff are employed at Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge hospitals.

Clinical support workers on band 2 of the NHS’s Agenda for Change pay scale should only provide personal care such as bathing and feeding.

However, UNISON says most CSWs at the two hospitals have routinely undertaken clinical tasks, such as taking and monitoring blood, performing electrocardiogram tests and inserting cannulas, for many years.

According to NHS guidance, staff performing these duties should be on salary band 3, which is nearly £2,000 a year more.

Seven health trusts in the North West have already moved these workers to the higher rate and backdated their pay to April 2018.

Last month, East Cheshire and Mid Cheshire trusts also agreed to move their staff up to salary band 3 and provide the same back pay.

In August, support workers employed on the Wirral became the first in the country to take strike action over this issue.

They were due to walk out for a further ten days from Monday (6 November).

However, the trust met with a group of clinical support workers and UNISON officials yesterday (Thursday) with a fresh offer that includes back pay to April 2018 for those who have performed duties above their band.

In response, the workers have agreed to call off next week’s strike to allow further discussions. Strikes planned for the week commencing 13 November remain, although these dates will be reviewed following negotiations between UNISON, affected staff and the trust.

UNISON North West UNISON regional organiser David McKnight said: “This is an important breakthrough allowing further talks to take place.

“The trust’s offer of back pay to April 2018 is recognition of the years of hard work put in by clinical support workers to serve the Wirral community.

“These are among the lowest-paid workers in the NHS and it’s shameful so many trusts taken advantage of their goodwill for so long. It’s time for other employers with live strike action, including Warrington and Halton, to step up and make the same offer.

“Strikes have been tough, but workers were determined to win what they were owed. They should be proud of their achievement.”

Arrowe Park Hospital clinical support worker Tracey said: “We’re over the moon that the extra duties we’ve taken on over the years have been recognised.

“It’s disappointing it took 13 days of strikes for us to get here, but our resolve was never in doubt. We’ve been determined to get what we deserve.

“We’re grateful to our colleagues and the entire Wirral community for supporting us throughout this campaign.”

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Striking isn’t a choice made lightly, but Wirral health workers were committed to getting the right wages for countless extra duties they’ve shouldered over the years.

“Despite their tireless work for the community, especially through the pandemic, their employer wasn’t paying them fairly.

“But their determination has paid off. They’ve won well-deserved recognition and the extra wages they’re owed.”

Notes to editors:
– Strikes took place on 31 August; 1, 25, 27 and 29 September; 7, 8, 9 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27 October.
– Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Trust remains the only North West trust in dispute with UNISON, after failing to meet the campaign demands. Strikes are ongoing with walkouts today (Friday), Monday and Tuesday (6 and 7 November).
– 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 M: 07443 507046 E: s.doherty@unison.co.uk
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk