Compass hospital workers take fair pay protest to company’s Surrey HQ, says UNISON

Striking staff demand same pay as NHS colleagues

A coachload of striking Compass workers is today (Tuesday) heading 200 miles south to the company’s Chertsey headquarters to urge their employer to pay them the same as their NHS colleagues, says UNISON.

The staff – who work for the contractor at NHS trusts in St Helens and Blackpool – are on the penultimate day of their latest strike action. They’re hoping the doorstep protest will persuade company bosses to end the dispute, which began this summer.

The hospital cleaners, caterers, porters, receptionists and security workers have been striking on alternate days since last Monday (14 October) over the company’s failure to match health service pay rates and working conditions.

Most of the Compass employees are on the minimum wage (£8.21 an hour), yet work alongside colleagues employed directly by the NHS, where the lowest hourly rate is £9.03.

This difference of 82p an hour is worth around £1,500 a year for full-time staff, says UNISON.

As well as earning less, Compass staff don’t receive bonuses for working weekends or bank holidays, and only get statutory sick pay – unlike their directly employed colleagues, says UNISON.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “All these hospital staff are after is fairness. They give their all day in and day out, which is hard to do when they’re working alongside colleagues being paid significantly more.

“Compass could easily afford to pay its staff a better wage – it made more than £1.5bn of profit last year. Yet it’s ignored staff, has given conciliation service ACAS the runaround and refused to get around the table to bring this dispute to an end.

“Hopefully the trip to Chertsey will persuade Compass to see the error of its ways, and start paying staff the NHS rate they well and truly deserve.”

UNISON St Helens and Knowsley health branch secretary Tony Lockhart said: “We’re travelling all the way from St Helens to Compass’ Surrey headquarters because the company simply won’t listen to its staff.

“These dedicated hospital workers have been forced to take four rounds of strike action, that’s 12 days in total. This is not a decision any take lightly.

“Compass bosses say they don’t know what the strikers want but they’ve clearly not been listening. That’s why we’ve come down to head office.

“The striking staff want a pay rise to bring them in line with NHS colleagues, plus occupational sick pay and unsociable hours payments. That’s surely not too much to ask of a company that pays its CEO more in a day than a hospital cleaner makes in a year.”

Notes to editors:
A striking Compass worker said: “I do the same job as colleagues who are paid more than me. We wear the same uniforms, are subject to the same rules, have the same job descriptions – yet we’re paid and treated differently. It’s simply wrong.
“At weekends and on bank holidays, my colleagues on NHS contracts can be paid more than double. What’s more, if we’re ill, we have to choose between going without wages or working while we’re sick. A colleague arranged chemotherapy around their shifts because they couldn’t afford to be off work. Compass can end this cruelty – I hope they listen today.”
– This is the fourth round of action taken by the Compass hospital workers. It follows a one-day strike on 31 July, a two-day strike beginning on 27 August and a three-day strike starting on 19 September. A further planned strike at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust was called off on the eve of the action after the trust – rather than the company – agreed to fund the pay parity with NHS colleagues.
– 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. 

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