Unite is warning because of systematic failures by outsourcing giant Mitie, which holds the facility management contract for the NHS Dudley Hospital Trust, staff and patients could be exposed to Covid-19.
In a rare and unusual step the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a notice of contravention on the company in relation to Covid safety. Rather than close the facility the HSE has given Mitie time to improve its Covid procedures.
Unite has described Mitie as running a ‘laissez faire’ regime with regards to Covid security at its headquarters at the Russells Hall hospital. The facility management staff are not confined to the headquarters but work throughout all Dudley Group hospital buildings, greatly increasing concerns about Covid security.
Unite has identified a number of major concerns with Mitie’s practises including: social distancing being non-existent, a lack of ventilation, a failure to require staff and visitors to sign in, a lack of security about who can enter the building and a failure to provide hand sanitiser.
Unite believes that Mitie’s approach to Covid security is simply to require staff to wear masks and to have regular lateral flow tests.
Unite, which represents workers on the facility management contract, has raised its concerns directly with the management of both the company and the trust.
‘One of the worst workplaces I have attended’
“This is one of the worst workplaces I have attended as a union officer since the beginning of the pandemic,” commented Unite regional officer Su Lowe.
“Unite welcomes the intervention of the HSE, but this should never have been necessary, this is a large well-resourced company and strict Covid secure policies and practices should have been in place for well over a year.
“Keeping our NHS staff and patients safe should be the first thought of every company working for the NHS.
“The staff working for Mitie, operate throughout the entire Dudley Group of hospitals and any safety breaches will have implications for all of the workers and the public who use the Trust’s facilities.
“Unite will always speak out to ensure the health and safety of workers, we will continue to hold management’s feet to the fire, if we don’t who will.”
The facility management contract was previously operated by Interserve but was recently acquired by Mitie.
By Barckley Sumner