by Tim Lezard More than 200 cleaners, security guards, caterers and porters have voted to take industrial action at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich as part of a campaign to end a two tier workforce in the NHS. The GMB members, employed by private …

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, GMB, UK unions,

Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woolwichby Tim Lezard

More than 200 cleaners, security guards, caterers and porters have voted to take industrial action at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich as part of a campaign to end a two tier workforce in the NHS.

The GMB members, employed by private contractors ISS, have organised a protest outside the company’s bondholders meeting outside the hospital at 11.30am today.

The union wants to bring the pay and conditions of its members in line with those directly employed by the NHS. The ISS workers are paid between £7.10 and £7.32 per hour, while those who are directly employed earn at least £7.33 per our, rising to £7.69.

GMB members also want unsocial hours and weekend enhancements paid in line with conditions for NHS staff. ISS staff who work unsocial hours get between 90p – £2:05per hour. As direct staff they would be entitled to time and a half, ISS staff work on Saturday get time and a quarter. As direct staff this would be time and a half. When they work Sunday or a bank holiday they get time and a half. As direct staff this would be double time. ISS also pay less than sick pay for weekend.

GMB regional officer Nadine Houghton said: “GMB members want an end to the two- tier workforce within the hospital. They want the same pay rates and weekend enhancements and unsocial hours rates as the staff directly employed by the Trust.

“The ballot result sends a strong message that GMB does not accept that outsourcing mean that public sector employers can simply outsource the responsibility for the staff and duck their responsibilities by arguing that they are employed by someone else. For too long these staff at Queen Elizabeth Hospital have felt undervalued, bullied and exploited. This will not be accepted.

“GMB members do not take strike action lightly, especially not in a hospital. However the Trust and ISS have – to date – failed to get round the table with GMB to discuss these issues and so members have been left with no choice but go ahead with this official industrial action ballot. Now that the Trust and contractor know the ballot result we hope that the Lewisham and Greenwich Trust and ISS will be willing to enter into negotiations.

The PFI contractor for the hospital Meridian Hospitals PLC paid a dividend of £2,772,000 last year. This money is going straight from the public purse into private pockets. A fraction of this money could be used to pay our members what they deserve.”

Justin Bowden, GMB national officer for contractors said: “These GMB members all work in the NHS, for the NHS and so should be paid NHS rates of pay.

“ISS is contracted to provide these services to the NHS by the owners of QEH, Meridian Hospitals plc. ISS has said that the contract is not funded by Meridian Hospitals PLC to enable the company to pay staff the proper NHS rates.

“If this claim is true, given that the staff are effectively on loan to ISS, Meridian must now step in and use some of the large profits they make from public money to pay staff the NHS rates for the job.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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