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More than 150 staff at the Cumberland Infirmary to strike

Cumberland Infirmary
Cumberland Infirmary

More than 150 porters, cleaners, switchboard and catering staff at the Cumberland Infirmary are to begin strike action.

The Mitie-employed staff have voted to strike after claims of missing payments and staff working unsocial hours.

Mitie claims it already pays its employees time and a half or double time for overtime hours (i.e. anything beyond contracted hours).

Unsocial hours payment is a separate contractual term. It is a banded system under Agenda For Change and is a percentage of hourly rate, depending on the time and day.

Trade unions UNISON and GMB held crunch talks with Mitie and North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust this week in a last-ditch attempt to avoid strike action.

The talks were mediated by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and took place on Monday and Tuesday this week.

All parties were agreed that the hospital workers should receive unsocial hours payments but could not agree on who should pay for this, with Mitie and NCIC NHS Trust both claiming that they were not liable to fund the payments.

Both trade unions offered to withdraw their strike action – UNISON claim – if they received a written guarantee from Mitie that the Infirmary workers would begin to receive unsocial hours payments within the next two months.

UNISON suggest Mitie refused to make this commitment.

The two trade unions have previously called for an investigation into the whereabouts of a “substantial sum” of money which NCIC NHS Trust claim they have already passed on in order to fund the unsocial hours payments.

UNISON say they are also raising concerns about workers from other areas being drafted in to cover the striking hospital staff.

UNISON North West Regional Organiser David Atkinson said: “It is incredibly disappointing that key workers- who have put their lives at risk to keep us safe during this pandemic- have been forced to take strike action by their intransigent employer Mitie.

“Mitie and NCIC NHS Trust have been given ample opportunities to avoid this strike. Firstly, this issue has rumbled on for a decade without NCIC ever finding out whether the “substantial sum” they claim to have handed over has ever made its way to the Cumberland Infirmary workers it was intended for.

“Secondly, UNISON raised this issue with Mitie and the Trust last year and gave an extra month’s notice to the employer of the Infirmary workers’ proposed strike action, in order to give the best chance of resolving this issue.

“Finally, we spent two days earlier this week holding talks with Mitie and NCIC and even offered to withdraw our strike notice but Mitie refused our offer.

“Having risked their lives for the last year, this committed group of hospital cleaners, caterers, porters and switchboard staff are determined to secure the unsocial hours payments they are rightly owed.”

The health workers – all members of trade unions UNISON and GMB – plan to take two 24-hour strikes on Friday and Monday to secure the unsocial hours payments.