It’s “never been clearer” that Mitie can afford to pay, as Cumberland Infirmary workers begin third round of strike action

More than 150 porters, cleaners, switchboard and catering staff employed by Mitie at Cumberland Infirmary are set to begin a further three days of strike action tomorrow (Friday) over missing payments for working unsocial hours. The hospital workers have already taken four days of strike action in recent months.

While the strike action escalates, trade union UNISON says that it has “never been clearer” that Mitie can afford to pay NHS rates to the Infirmary workers it employs.

Mitie’s annual report and accounts reveal that the facilities giant generated an enormous revenue of £2.2bn in 2020. The company also boasts of holding cash assets of almost £125m. In addition, the company paid out £14.4m in dividends to shareholders.

In addition, Health Management Carlisle (HMC)- the company that entered into a PFI Agreement to provide Cumberland Infirmary’s facilities services - made a pre-tax profit of £4m from revenue of £20m

The dispute between Mitie and UNISON centres around payments for unsocial hours work at Cumberland Infirmary. NHS workers receive enhanced rates – such as time-and-a-half and double time – for working at unsocial times such as weekends or through the night. But Mitie, which employs cleaners, porters, caterers and switchboard staff at the hospital, is not paying enhanced rates for these shifts.

In an email to UNISON, Mitie CEO Phil Bentley claimed that Mitie: “simply can’t put ourselves, and our 80,000 colleagues, out of business by agreeing to pay costs that aren’t ours to bare.”

But it has emerged that Bentley’s own renumeration package increased by 17.7% to an eye-watering £2.6m last year.

UNISON Regional Organiser David Atkinson said: “It has never been clearer that Mitie could afford to settle this dispute in an instant.

“It is our taxes that fund Mitie’s contract with North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust. It is beyond scandalous that these taxes help to pay for the Mitie CEO’s staggering wages and multi-million pound shareholder dividends, all whilst Mitie pays front-line Cumberland Infirmary workers the minimum wage.

“Hospital workers in Carlisle have put themselves and their families at increased risk during a pandemic for over a year now. How can Mitie bosses defend the fact that they are paid almost £3m per year to sit behind a desk whilst Infirmary workers do not even receive the basic NHS rates for working overnight and at weekends?

“Mitie and HMC are holding tax-payers to ransom, whilst the Trust stands idly by. We raised this issue a year ago and have been in dispute for three months- the only possible explanation for the lack of progress has to be Mitie’s lack of motivation to pay front-line workers fairly.

“All it would take to avert this strike is a written commitment from Mitie that they will make the unsocial hours payments, with an implementation date of their choosing. Hospital workers have been patient and have only taken four days of strike action over several months but Mitie can now expect sustained industrial action if they continue to drag their feet.”

Meanwhile, pressure continues to mount on Mitie, the Trust and HMC. Local MP John Stevenson has joined Cumbria County Council Leader Stewart Young in asking all three parties to resolve the dispute as soon as possible.

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