Why is this important?
We have worked on the frontline as porters, cleaners, switchboard and catering staff at Cumberland Infirmary during this pandemic. We have put ourselves at risk to serve patients meals, clean wards- keeping them safe from infection and do the jobs which allow nurses and doctors to deliver vital care.
We have frequently worked weekends and night shifts- spending time away from our families- as we often have to working in an NHS hospital. Our colleagues who are employed by the National Health Service receive enhancement payments for working these unsocial hours.
This 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 the weekends or through the night.
We have discovered that our employer Interserve has failed to pay us enhancements for unsocial hours for over ten years. We are thousands of pounds out of pocket compared to our colleagues who do the same jobs within the NHS. We are ONE NHS- why should we be paid less than colleagues doing exactly the same jobs?
Our employer Interserve has repeatedly claimed that it has never received funding to pay us unsocial hours payments. But 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.
Worryingly, Health Management Carlisle has denied ever receiving any payments from the Trust relating to unsocial hours payments. We don't know who has the money, but we do know that we have been short changed for over ten years.
This would be a bitter pill to swallow at any time but we are even more upset to learn of our underpayment as we are giving everything to keep people safe during this pandemic. Where is our money Interserve?
UNISON North West Regional Organiser David Atkinson said: “Interserve members have worked on the front-line throughout the pandemic keeping the Cumberland Infirmary running.
“Whilst they have risked their own lives - they have not received any of the unsocial hours payments we believe they deserve for working away from their families overnight and at the weekend – payments made to all other staff working at the hospital.
“Meanwhile, Interserve, NCIC and Health Management Carlisle have been pointing the finger at each other. I want to make it clear, I am not interested in who has the money, or where it has been for the last ten years – all I want is for this pay inequity at the hospital to end now.
“It is simply unacceptable to treat front-line health workers, who are the lowest paid at the hospital, in this way. Cleaners, porters, caterers and switchboard staff are coming together in their union UNISON to say enough is enough - and they are determined to secure the pay they deserve.
“We call on Interserve, Health Management Carlisle and NCIC to find a solution to this mess.”
What action do we have planned?
Porters, cleaners, switchboard and catering staff employed by Interserve at Cumberland Infirmary are currently voting on whether to take strike action over missing payments for working unsocial hours. The ballot opened on 5 November and will run until 26 November. If a majority of us vote to take strike action, we will announce strike dates in due course.
How can you help?
Post messages of support on social media: please tag @interserve, @interserveHC and @NorthWestUNISON. Use hashtags #ONENHS and #WhereIsOurMoney.