System of second class NHS workers in the South West must end, says UNISON

Virgin, Mitie and Simply Serve come under pressure to pay up

Three private companies employing thousands of staff in the NHS in the South West are coming under pressure as UNISON’s campaign for fair pay in the health service escalates.

Workers at contractor giants Virgin, Mitie and Simply Serve are today (Tuesday) calling on company chief executives and NHS bosses to end pay inequality in the health service by giving them the same rates as colleagues employed directly by the NHS.

Last year, the lowest-paid workers in the NHS were given a £2,000 wage rise as part of a three-year deal negotiated by health unions. But tens of thousands of heath staff employed on private contracts did not receive this.

Among the workers losing out are those at Virgin providing community care services for Bath and North East Somerset Community Health, and Simply Serve, which has a cleaning and catering contract at Yeovil District Hospital.

Cleaners, caterers and porters employed by Mitie at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust recently voted overwhelmingly for strike action over this issue.

UNISON warns this is creating a two-tier workforce within the NHS. The growing pay divide makes it more likely staff will either seek new jobs directly employed by health trusts or quit the NHS altogether.

UNISON South West regional secretary Joanne Kaye said:

“Staff who work for private contractors often do the same jobs as colleagues directly employed by the NHS. They experience the same pressures and provide the same level of exceptional service.

“It makes no sense for many of these workers to be on the minimum wage while colleagues still working for the NHS take home much more. Outsourced staff struggling to make ends meet are understandably considering other jobs which won’t leave them so strapped for cash. And this is already having an impact on patient care and the smooth running of the NHS.

“Reluctant employers across the country are facing pressure to pay up, as Sodexo has done recently in Doncaster and OCS has in Liverpool. Staff know fair pay is possible if the contractor and the NHS trust have the will to make it happen. But the government can help too by providing the necessary funds so thousands of outsourced staff can get a long overdue pay rise.

“All hospital workers are part of the NHS team and should be paid fairly for the vital jobs they do. After months and months of ignoring staff, it’s time Virgin, Mitie and Simply Serve paid up.”

Notes to editors:

  • The NHS pay framework agreement was reached last June following months of negotiation between unions, employers and ministers. The three-year deal meant pay increases for over a million workers on NHS contracts and was backdated to April 2018. However, tens of thousands of health staff employed on private contracts have not received a penny. Some haven’t had a pay rise in years.
  • UNISON is campaigning across the country to ensure outsourced health workers don’t lose out when it comes to their pay. Recent notable successes where NHS rates have been secured include catering workers employed bySodexo at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospital and cleaners, porters, catering and security staff employed by OCS at Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
  • UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in both the public and private sectors.