Staff employed by private contractor Engie Services Ltd within East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust have announced that they will take industrial action later this month over their employer’s failure to pay NHS rates.
The security staff- who work at Burnley General Hospital and Royal Blackburn Hospital have announced their intention to begin a 48-hour strike on Sunday 21 March at 6.30pm.
Multinational outsourcing giant Engie only pays the hospital workers the minimum wage rate, which leaves some of the Lancashire security staff up to £6,000 per year worse off compared to security guards employed on NHS terms.
UNISON has been trying to resolve this issue for months, and security workers are angry at the lack of progress since they submitted a pay claim in October of 2020. The hospital guards feel that they have exhausted all other avenues and recently voted 100% in favour of taking industrial action.
UNISON held a last-ditch meeting with Engie yesterday (Tuesday) but the lack of meaningful progress has provoked the security workers into confirming their plans to strike.
Hospital security worker Scott Barton said: “The job that we do is dangerous. We look after staff and vulnerable patients and we need to be there to keep the hospital going so the medical staff can do the important work that they do. Protecting the hospital protects the people of Burnley.”
Hospital security worker Mohammed Nizar said: “We're paid around the minimum wage and we work in very dangerous situations. We are the lowest paid people in the hospital and it's unfair that we're treated as second class workers.”
UNISON North West regional organiser Rebecca Lumberg said: “Hospital security make it possible for clinical staff to deliver life-saving care. ONS figures have shown that security guards have a higher risk of dying as a result of COVID-19 than any other profession. Continuing to pay them the bare minimum is a shameful betrayal after they have put their lives at risk to protect patients and staff in Lancashire.
“The ballot for strike action was originally postponed due to the public health crisis and we have since held numerous meetings with Engie to try to resolve this issue without strike action. Unfortunately, Engie bosses continue to drag their feet and this dedicated group of hospital workers cannot wait any longer for fair treatment.
“Despite Engie’s intransigence so far- there is still time to avoid this strike if the company simply commits to provide hospital security with pay security.”
The security guards recently launched an online petition and have received support from 700 of their fellow NHS workers.