System of second class NHS workers must end

Private companies employing tens of thousands of staff in the NHS across England are coming under pressure to give their employees a wage rise as UNISON’s campaign for fair pay in the health service escalates.

Workers at contracting giants – including Compass Medirest, Serco, Mitie and ISS – are today (Tuesday) calling on company chief executives and NHS bosses to end pay inequality in the health service by giving them the same hourly rates as colleagues employed directly by the NHS.

Last year, the lowest-paid workers in the NHS were given a £2,000 wage rise as part of a three-year deal negotiated by health unions. But tens of thousands of health staff employed on private contracts did not receive this.

Among the workers losing out are:

  • domestics employed by Compass Medirest at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge
  • security, cleaning and catering staff at Worcester Royal Hospital employed by ISS
  • staff on the Serco facilities management contract at Barts Health NHS Trust in London
  • cleaners, caters and porters, who are about to ballot for industrial action over the issue, employed by Mitie at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust.

UNISON warns this is creating a two-tier workforce within the NHS, with the growing pay divide making it more likely staff will either seek new jobs where they are directly employed by health trusts, or will quit the NHS altogether.

UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “In every area of the country there are staff working for private contractors doing the same jobs as colleagues directly employed by the NHS. They experience the same pressures and provide the same level of exceptional service.

“It makes no sense for many of these workers to be on the minimum wage while colleagues still working for the NHS take home much more. Outsourced staff struggling to make ends meet are understandably considering other jobs that won’t leave them so strapped for cash. This is already having an impact on patient care and the smooth running of the NHS.

“Reluctant employers across the country are facing pressure to pay up, as Sodexo has done recently in Doncaster and OCS has in Liverpool. Staff know fair pay is possible if the contractor and the NHS trust have the will to make it happen. But the government can help too by providing the necessary funds so thousands of outsourced staff can get a long overdue pay rise.

“All hospital workers are part of the NHS team and should be paid fairly for the vital jobs they do. After months and months of ignoring staff, it’s time for all of these contractors to pay up.”

Notes to editors:

  • The NHS pay framework agreement was reached last June following months of negotiation between unions, employers and ministers. The three-year deal meant pay increases for over a million workers on NHS contracts and was backdated to April 2018. However, tens of thousands of health staff employed on private contracts have not received a penny. Some haven’t had a pay rise in years.
  • UNISON is campaigning across the country to ensure outsourced health workers don’t lose out when it comes to their pay. Recent notable successes where NHS rates have been secured include catering workers employed by Sodexo at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospital and cleaners, porters, catering and security staff employed by OCS at Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
  • 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 both the public and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Kieran Pearson T: 0207 121 5555 M: 07432 741595 E:
Liz Chinchen T: 0207 121 5463 M: 07778 158175 E: