Thousands of low-paid health staff are not eligible for wages rises under an impending NHS pay deal because their work has been outsourced.
About 1,600 Barts Health workers, including porters, cleaners, catering staff and security guards working at eight East London hospitals, are now fighting for pay justice after their employer, outsourcing firm Serco, has refused to grant them a pay rise in line with the NHS pay settlement, if it is agreed.
This means that if NHS workers accept the pay deal, Barts Serco workers’ pay will stay at £10.20 instead of go up to the £10.83 an hour they would have been paid had they been directly employed by the health service.
In March, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a proposed NHS pay deal worth £4.2bn – NHS staff are now being balloted on whether or not to accept. The deal will see the lowest-paid workers in London earn £10.83 an hour this year, rising to over £11 an hour in inner London.
The proposed deal will add about £2,000 in cash terms to workers’ wage packets in the first year of the three-year deal.
The plight of low-paid Barts workers – whose employment was transferred from the NHS to Serco in 2016 – will be held up as yet another example of the problems with privatising the health service.
Outsourced workers at hospitals throughout the UK will find themselves in the same position as Barts Serco workers – working right alongside colleagues in the same workplace being offered less pay.
Last week (May 9), Barts workers staged a protest demanding pay equality and have resolved to keep fighting for justice.
“Over a thousand low paid workers vital to maintaining a clean and safe health service are demanding fair pay and dignity at work,” said Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon. “It’s an injustice health workers employed by Serco, who keep these London hospitals safe and clean, are being offered less than other NHS workers at the same hospitals.
“It’s time to end poverty pay for NHS workers employed by private contractors,” she added. “Serco workers should get the same increase as their colleagues to help pay for the high cost of housing and transport in London. Workers employed by Serco at Barts are demanding pay justice.”
Barts workers’ fight comes in the same week as low-paid staff at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, including plumbers, porters, cleaners and electricians voted to strike over outsourcing plans.
The Unite members are opposing proposals to move their jobs to a subsidiary company, WWL Solutions Limited, which would make them vulnerable to cuts in pay, terms and conditions. Strike action is set for next week (May 24-25).
Concerns over NHS privatisation were further highlighted today (May 17) after the National Audit Office (NAO) slammed outsourcing firm Capita for “way below standard” NHS services it provided which “potentially put patients at risk of serious harm”.
The NAO is now recommending that NHS England investigate whether services should be brought back in house.