Cumberland Infirmary workers set to strike over TEN YEARS worth of missing unsocial hours payments

More than seventy porters, cleaners, switchboard and catering staff working at Cumberland Infirmary are set to take strike action over missing payments for working unsocial hours.

More than seventy porters, cleaners, switchboard and catering staff working at Cumberland Infirmary are set to take strike action over missing payments for working unsocial hours.

The health workers - all members of trade union UNISON – plan to take two days of industrial action on Friday 26 February and Monday 1 March. Members of the GMB union are also set to strike on the same days.

The scandal has rocked the hospital after it emerged that the Infirmary staff- employed by the support services company Interserve- have not received these payments for over ten years.

The extra money was agreed over a decade ago as part of the NHS Agenda for Change pay deal. It includes enhanced rates – such as time-and-a-half and double time – for working at unsocial times such as weekends or through the night.

But UNISON has discovered that the hospital staff have never been given the payments, leaving them significantly out of pocket.

And now a row has begun over who is liable to pay the hospital workers what they are owed. Interserve- which employs the seventy-three hospital workers- has repeatedly claimed that it has never received funding to pay the Infirmary workers unsocial hours payments.

Meanwhile, North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust (NCIC) claim that they handed over a “substantial sum” to Health Management Carlisle- the investment firm which owns the hospital- many years ago.

But worryingly, Health Management Carlisle has denied ever received any payments from the Trust relating to unsocial hours payments.

UNISON Cumbria and North Lancashire Health branch secretary Liz Walsh said: “Our Interserve colleagues do the same jobs in the same hospital as NHS colleagues. It’s simply wrong that they are not being paid the same rates for working at night and over the weekend.

“Our cleaners, porters and caterers keep the hospital running- we couldn’t do our jobs without them. Interserve staff in other hospitals get proper unsocial hours payments, so why not in Carlisle? Local people want to know who is telling the truth about the missing funding and why this hasn’t been passed on to front-line hospital workers.”

Interserve bosses who have been accused of adding insult to injury in the row over pay.

Union officials believe that Interserve have responded to the strike ballot by trying to intimidate its staff out of taking strike action.

One hospital worker employed by Interserve said: “All we want is our money- that we're rightly due. A lot of us have worked here for a long time and now we're being threatened with dismissal.”

Another Interserve worker who did not want to be named due to fear of reprisals from the company said: “Today we received a letter from a regional manager saying he was disappointed that we are taking action during a pandemic. But we are disappointed with the company for failing to resolve this when they've had long enough. We don't want to have to go on strike, but we know we must.”

UNISON North West Regional Organiser David Atkinson said: “Interserve bosses have now taken to criticising these front-line hospital workers for planning industrial action during a pandemic. This intimidation tactic belies the fact that Interserve has no concern for patients or staff in Carlisle.

“Interserve have had years to resolve this issue and have failed to do so. In addition, UNISON made Interserve aware some time ago about the potential for industrial action over this issue and yet the company has failed to enter into meaningful negotiations.

“To make matters worse, Interserve has not even contacted UNISON to request life and limb cover during the hospital workers’ proposed strike action. Instead, they are planning to bring in agency staff who may or may not have appropriate qualifications and DBS checks in place. If Interserve were genuinely concerned about patient and staff safety during the pandemic, they would work constructively with us to avoid industrial action.”

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