Hospital porters in Exeter are gearing up for strike action this weekend over management attempts to move them onto 12-hour shifts – and asking for support from colleagues across the union.
The porters at the Royal Devon and Exeter foundation trust are among some of the lowest-paid staff in the NHS, but 96% of them voted for industrial action, with a 24-hour strike due to start at 6am on Friday 20 October and an 8-hour follow-up strike from 10pm on Sunday 22 October.
UNISON South West has also launched a Respect Our Porters campaign to support the workers concerned, who have been invited to meet their local MP Ben Bradshaw at Westminster on Thursday.
The 26 UNISON members involved in the dispute currently work an eight-hour shift and are concerned that moving to the longer shifts would mean increased fatigue and sickness, affecting patient care.
Local reps Alan Doyle and Greg Ticehurst say: “We push 600lb beds up and down miles of corridors at least a dozen times a day.
“On our current eight-hour shift we walk on average 12 miles, we run to cardiac arrest emergencies and we run to the helipad.
“We’ve all told managers in our consultation meetings that we are exhausted after our current eight-hour shifts – they won’t listen.”
UNISON regional organiser Oliver Foster-Burnell says the dispute could be resolved if management dropped the new shift plans and working with the porters and their union on a more inclusive review to improve the service.
The employer argues that the 12-hour shifts are needed to increase efficiency, but a report commissioned by the hospital itself shows that its portering services are among the cheapest in the country – costing 50% less than the NHS average.
“Strikes are a last resort,” added Mr Foster-Burnell, “but unless the trust listens to the concerns porters have raised, they don’t have another choice.”
You can show your support for these UNISON members by:
- donating to the Royal Devon and Exeter health branch hardship fund (see panel);
- signing the online petition at http://unsn.uk/RespectOurPorters;
- posting a solidarity message on social media with the campaign hashtag #RespectOurPorters;
- downloading a poster and leaflet from the campaign page on the UNISON South West website.
Support the Royal Devon and Exeter porters by donating to their hardship fund.
Send a cheque to the branch at:
UNISON Office, Baker House , Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Trust, Barrack Road, Exeter, EX2 5DW
Or make a direct donation to the branch account
- Account Name: UNISON Royal Devon and Exeter Health 10296 Branch
- Account Number: 20323929
- Sort Code: 60-83-01