Hospital key workers called off a protest today after an 11th-hour deal with their outsourced management firm.
Cleaners and porters at St George’s Hospital – employed by contractor Mitie – got a £40 Christmas bonus on Tuesday, seven weeks after their NHS colleagues.
They also agreed a sick pay scheme so suspended their action for a month to see how the scheme is implemented.
Employers Mitie say changes in pay dates mean staff are being paid on April 1 as normal; that in a 4-week cycle they would then be paid on April 29, but that the switch to monthly pay means their next pay day will be May 11.
The firm said employees could receive “an advance of their salary that will in essence allow them to balance out their pay during this time. This can be repaid over several months with no interest.
“[But] the vast majority of colleagues we have met with to discuss this have not wanted to take up the offer.”
To claims lieu and leave days were not being processed, the firm’s statement said: “Holiday requests are managed on a first come first serve basis to ensure we have enough colleagues rostered and we can continue to deliver services. Colleagues are not being denied any lieu.”
The GMB halted any plan for escalating staff disputes during lockdown but now feels staff have had enough.
Helen O’Connor, GMB Regional Organiser said: “Our members who have worked so hard during the pandemic welcome the offer of a sick pay scheme from the company. They were also pleased to finally receive £40 vouchers that were promised to them at Christmas.
“There are still issues to resolve and GMB reps have agreed to suspend protest action to allow for further talks and progress to continue.
“Things are now moving in a positive direction and our hard-working GMB members are always reasonable and prepared to give the company additional time to resolve all remaining issues.
“GMB’s position is that anyone who works in a hospital should be given access to sick pay, no matter who they work for. We are pleased that Mitie have finally a sick pay scheme to their workers and are keen that other outsourced employers in South London hospitals follow suit.”
A Mitie spokeswoman said: “Our people are what make our business exceptional and we are proud to offer industry-leading benefits. We are implementing a change to pay periods on this contract so that our colleagues can move from four-weekly to monthly paydays. As part of this transition, we are providing a range of support and are working closely with GMB to understand their concerns and ensure the best interests of our colleagues.”
Mitie believes the new regime would enable staff to manage their finances better, as rent, mortgages, council tax, utility bills etc are usually paid monthly. It also denied refusing lieu or annual leave days.
A St George’s spokesperson said: “Mitie staff are hugely valued and are a key part of our team so we are pleased that this [the Christmas bonus] has been resolved.”
Two years ago cleaners at the hospital claimed their health was being put at risk every time they did a shift – three had already died during the coronavirus pandemic.Their department had been left severely stretched after 30 redundancies at St George’s in 2019, which led to a decline in hygiene standards – which ward medics had complained about.
Pictured: A protest by staff over being put in danger weeks after the start of lockdown, in 2020