Privately-employed security staff at Burnley General Hospital vote for strike action

Staff employed by private contractor Engie Services Ltd within East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust have unanimously voted to take industrial action over their employer’s failure to pay NHS rates.
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They work for the multinational outsourcing company at Burnley General Hospital and Royal Blackburn Hospital as security guards and some are paid only the minimum wage rate of £8.72 an hour, or lower for under-25s.

The lowest rate for security staff employed directly by the NHS is £9.89 per hour. Taking into account overtime payments, some Lancashire security staff are losing out on up to £6,000 per year compared to NHS rates.

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UNISON has been trying to resolve this issue through local negotiation, with security workers 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% of respondents in favour of taking industrial action.

Some of the security staff are employed at Burnley General HospitalSome of the security staff are employed at Burnley General Hospital
Some of the security staff are employed at Burnley General Hospital

The security guards recently launched an online petition and have received support from 700 of their fellow NHS workers.

One ex-hospital worker said: “I used to work at the hospitals on the wards. I have seen the hard work they do. They support medical staff when in crisis with patients that are being aggressive. They play a vital role within the organisation and their pay should reflect this.”

Whilst another NHS worker said: “As an NHS junior doctor, security staff are part of our team and often help us out of escalating or tough situations. It is disgraceful that these NHS heroes get less than NHS rates, terms and conditions.”

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Strikes by Engie hospital security workers in Tameside and Salford were averted at the eleventh hour when the company made last minute offers to pay AfC rates.

UNISON North West regional organiser Rebecca Lumberg said: “This dedicated group of security workers put themselves in danger every day to protect patients and staff. They have been on the front-line throughout the pandemic despite ONS figures showing as a profession, security guards have the highest risk of dying as a result of COVID-19.

“This ballot for strike action was originally postponed because of the ongoing public health crisis but this group of workers felt forced to vote for strike action given UNISON’s experience of an employer who, in other locations has stubbornly refused to deal with this issue appropriately.

“Last year, two groups of security staff in Greater Manchester- also employed by Engie – won their dispute for NHS pay rates before they were due to go on strike. We hope that Engie do the right thing before Lancashire hospital security staff are forced to take strike action.”

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A spokesperson for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust said: “The Trust was made aware of the pay dispute between Unison and Engie in December 2020, and we continue to monitor the situation.

"Whilst the Trust does not directly employ the security teams on the Blackburn and Burnley hospital sites, it does, nevertheless, value their contribution greatly. The Security Teams based across our Trust sites are hardworking, always happy to help and are incredibly supportive. They are a key part of the wider Trust team.

"Discussions are continuing, and we are committed to being involved in enabling a resolution for all parties. The safety of our patients, staff and visitors to our hospital sites is important to us. ENGIE and our PFI partners have informed the Trust that they have contingency plans in place, should a formal strike take place."

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