Russells Hall Hospital is set for major disruption after Unison workers joined a dispute over unpaid Covid cash.
Unite trade union workers have been walking out since December over a refusal by employer Mitie to pay a bonus to staff who worked through the pandemic.
Now Unison staff have voted to join them, meaning around 450 workers could be involved – making the action the biggest walkout by non-medical staff in 20 years. Unison West Midlands regional organiser, Ollie Hopkins, said:
“Nobody working in the NHS wants to strike, but it’s the inaction of Mitie that has led to this huge ballot result. The huge vote in favour of industrial action shows how unhappy they are at being treated so badly.
“Mitie is a company that makes millions in profit each year. But it has the cheek to tell its low-paid workers in Dudley that they can’t have the money.”
The lump sum, which is based on pay and starts at £1,655 for workers on the lowest wages, has been paid to staff employed by the NHS.
Mitie took over from Interserve at the hospital as external employers of facilities staff including porters, receptionists, restaurant staff and hospital cleaners including workers in operating theatres. Unite said it was pleased that Unison members voted to join the action and would be on picket lines on February 23. Sue Lowe, regional officer for Unite in the West Midlands, said:
“Mitie are not honouring the agreement, they don’t understand why staff don’t put up and shut up.”
The twice weekly action is expected to disrupt services for patients at the hospital and add to already long waiting times for treatment. Mrs Lowe added:
“If our members are so important that they will impact on patient services then they are important enough to be paid the same as their clinical colleagues.”
Mitie has been approached by the Local Democracy Reporting Service for a comment. Bosses at Russells Hall hospital said they were assessing the situation after being made aware of the action.