• Sunday, December 04, 2022

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London hospitals workers to strike over ‘BAME staff pay’

Three hospitals including Royal London Hospital will go on strike from Jan 31. (iStock Image)

By: Alastair Lockhart

HUNDREDS of workers at three East London hospitals will strike for two weeks over a pay dispute with their employers.

Staff at the Royal London Hospital, St Bartholmew’s Hospital and Whipps Cross Hospital plan to take action from Monday, January 31 as they try to push Barts Health NHS Trust and employers Serco to increase their pay.

Those involved are all members of the Unite union and work for Serco at the hospitals, both run by Barts Health Trust.

No figures are available for how many of the workforce are involved.

Unite claims staff at the three hospitals, which it says are predominantly black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees, are paid 15 per cent less than those employed directly by the NHS.

The union accused Serco and Barts Health of “exploiting” the caterers, cleaners, porters and other staff employed by Serco at Royal London, St Bart’s and Whipps Cross.

Contractors Serco said it had recently increased its offer of a pay rise to three per cent for staff to address their concerns.

However, Unite could not reach an agreement with the employer, arguing that far more was needed to match the 7.5 per cent inflation rate.

Sharon Graham, Unite’s general secretary, was highly critical of the hospitals’ and Serco’s pay to their workers.

She said: “These workers face the same risks as NHS-employed staff but they are paid significantly worse and treated disgracefully.

“Barts Health NHS Trust has a golden opportunity to bring these workers, employed by Serco and not the NHS, back into NHS employment.

“It’s time to end the injustice of a two-tier workforce. Unite is 100 per cent behind our members’ battle against low pay and exploitation.”

Serco responded by criticising the strike and calling for further talks.

The company’s contract director for Barts Health, Taddy McAuely, said: “We are extremely disappointed with the notification of strike action from Unite as we recently increased the pay offer for our employees to a total of three per cent, backdated to April 2021.

“This is the same percentage increase as that being received by people directly employed by the NHS.

“Serco also recently announced a £100 ex-gratia payment for all of our 52,000 front line employees around the world including all our colleagues at Barts Health.

“We look forward to further discussions with Unite and hope to work together to find a resolution that avoids the need for this unnecessary strike action.”

Shane DeGaris, deputy group chief executive at Barts Health NHS Trust said: “Over the next 13 months we will be considering future arrangements of the facilities management contract, which could include bringing some services back in house.

“We are hopeful that this matter can be resolved but are working with Serco to put the appropriate measures in place and ensure hospital services are supported if strike action does go ahead.”

(Local Democracy Reporting Service)

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