A security guard at Southampton General has spoken out about attacks on staff at the hospital – involving scissors, screw drivers and needles – before a second strike tomorrow (18 April).
Speaking exclusively to UNITElive, the guard said personal protection equipment (PPE) issues around stab vests and safety restraints that have been resolved during talks in recent days are not enough to end the dispute and called for pay and benefits that reflect the hazards of the job.
Currently guards at the Southampton hospital, employed by outsourcing giant Mitie, receive just £8.64 an hour while their sick pay benefits amount to just two weeks full pay and two weeks half pay before moving onto the statutory minimum.
Speaking anonymously, the guard said, “We have had incidents were weapons have been pulled on security. People have used needles as weapons and we had a recent incident were a patient with mental health issues took a pair of scissors out of a nurse’s pocket.
“I’ve seen guards being beaten up and they’ve had to come back into work before they’re better. Another recent incident involved a guard having his hand mangled while restraining another patient with mental health issues. He took a few days off, but had to come back early because he knows that the injury pay isn’t suitable.
“You cannot blame patients with mental health issues for the situation they’re in because they’ve come to the hospital for help. But unfortunately it comes to the point where the people who are helping need help themselves.
“There’s always going to be the potential of getting hurt at work in security because we are the ones who stand in front to protect staff and patients from attacks. When does that occur the company needs to give the correct sick pay entitlement until we’re ready to go back to work. As soon as you start hitting half payments you’re going to be missing mortgages and phones bills and stuff like that. We are also the lowest paid staff on nights and weekends, with the outsourced cleaning staff getting paid more than us.”
The security staff are seeking £10.50 for security officers and £12.16 for supervisors, with additional payments of 50p per hour on night rates; £1 an hour on Saturday and double time on Sunday, as well as an overhaul of the sick pay policy.
Unite regional officer Scott Kemp said, “While there has been some progress with the company inching towards our position, it was considered that not enough ground had been made to justify calling off the strike on Good Friday.
“That said, Unite’s door remains open for constructive talks 24/7 over this Easter holiday period.”