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Friday, 01 August 2014

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Cumbria hospital workers wait six years for pay rise

Low paid hospital workers claim they are still waiting for a pay rise six years after it was formally agreed.

The group of staff, who include domestic cleaners and porters, all work at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary.

But they are employed by management firm Interserve, which is paid to provide services such as cleaning at the infirmary under its PFI contract, not directly by hospital bosses.

Staff claim they were due to receive a rise in their night shift allowance – increasing it from nine per cent to 12.5 per cent – in 2006 as part of contract agreements.

But when the previous government’s Agenda for Change fair pay deal came into force that rise was frozen.

Instead they were due to receive unsocial hours payments, in line with those staff employed directly by North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust. However, six years on, they say they have still not had either of the rises.

One worker said they have estimated that they are now owed at least £13,000 each in backdated pay.

She told the News & Star: “We are some of the lowest paid staff in the hospital. It is now, when we are struggling financially, that we at least need our full night shift rate. But no one wants to listen.”

Carlisle city councillor Jessica Riddle has now taken the fight up on behalf of staff. She said: “I think it’s disgraceful that Interserve should be treating domestic cleaning staff and porters, whose work is integral to the running of the hospital, in such a way.

“We keep hearing about infection control but who is more important to infection control than the cleaners.

“They are low paid workers. This has been going on for far too long and in this current economic climate these people need the extra money more than ever. This has to be sorted out, especially at a time when the hospital trust is about to be taken over by another.”

Sean Gibson, of the Unison trade union, also called on Interserve and current infirmary bosses to take action to resolve this situation.

“Interserve are raking in huge amounts of money from this trust through the PFI deal, yet both they and the trust are playing pass the parcel and blaming each other. The financial costs of the PFI plus the way they treat their staff shows highlights all the bad things about private companies being involved in the NHS,” he said.

Mr Gibson added that a similar situation has already been resolved by Interserve at a hospital in Dudley. “Why is it different here?” he asked.

Hannah Simpkins, Interserve’s external marketing manager, said: “We are always prepared to discuss employment conditions either directly with our employees or their official representatives. However it is not appropriate for us to discuss our employees’ terms of employment in the media.”

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