Health staff employed by private contractor OCS today (Wednesday) begin a 72-hour strike at a number of locations operated by Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Trust, says UNISON.
The 50 workers include porters, caterers and cleaners who are employed by the healthcare facilities firm at eight NHS sites across Lancashire. They want the same sick pay and annual holiday as the NHS staff they work alongside.
OCS employees at hospitals, mental health units and clinics in Blackburn, Blackpool, Ormskirk and Preston are striking until Friday (1 July).
Earlier this year, UNISON successfully negotiated an increase to the workers’ hourly pay rates, bringing them into line with staff employed directly by the NHS. This meant a 69p increase, taking the workers to £10.19 an hour.
But OCS workers are still not getting extra money for night, weekend or bank holiday shifts that their NHS counterparts receive. And they only get statutory sick pay (less than £100 a week), meaning many can’t afford to be off, says UNISON.
UNISON North West regional organiser Dale Ollier said: “Strikes are always a last resort, but workers have no other way to make themselves heard. They deserve to be treated and paid the same as those working for the NHS.
“OCS workers do the same jobs as many NHS colleagues but they miss out on sick pay when they’re ill, are paid less when they work unsocial hours or weekends and are given fewer days off.
“Working for firms in other sectors is becoming far more attractive than remaining in healthcare, so many employees will simply leave unless the situation improves.
“The employer needs to treat staff fairly to end this dispute.”
Notes to editors:
– Sites affected are the Royal Blackburn Hospital, Daisyfield Mill Clinic and the Mount Clinic in Accrington, the Harbour and Wesham Rehabilitation Units in Blackpool, Preston’s Guild Park Hospital, Ormskirk and District General Hospital and Balladen House in Rossendale.
– Colleagues employed by the NHS receive their full wages when ill. But both the employer and trust have refused to raise sick pay, annual leave or evening/weekend allowances. They also won’t agree to backdate the wage increase to May 2021, which is when the workers’ pay complaint was first lodged.
– The workers voted overwhelmingly (93.2%) in favour of strike action.
– 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.