Barnstaple hospital staff set to strike in a few hours

PICKET lines will form outside Barnstaple hospital from just after midnight tonight (Monday) after last ditch talks to prevent a walk out of caterers, cleaners and porters failed. Workers employed by contractor Sodexo at North Devon District Hospital have

PICKET lines will form outside Barnstaple hospital from just after midnight tonight (Monday) after last ditch talks to prevent a walk out of caterers, cleaners and porters failed.

Workers employed by contractor Sodexo at North Devon District Hospital have been calling for sick pay plus better holiday rates and employment conditions, bringing them into line with their NHS colleagues.

Union representatives from Unison met with Northern Devon Healthcare Trust and Sodexo management this morning to try and avert a strike at the eleventh hour, but to no avail.

The 48 hour strike is now expected to begin at one minute past midnight and will include all Unison Sodexo members employed at Northern Devon Healthcare, numbered at just over 200.


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The dispute centres on a national agreement called Agenda for Change, brought in by the government in October 2006 and which Unison says should be honoured by the trust, bringing Sodexo staff in line with the NHS standard.

The trust has pledged today (Monday) to keep the hospital running as smoothly as possible during the strike action. It said admissions and out patient clinics would continue to go ahead as normal under "internal contingency plans."

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After meetings today facilitated by the conciliation service ACAS, broke down, the Trust said it had offered to implement full sick pay and annual leave payments from January 1 and was prepared to move by April 1 this to terms and conditions for Sodexo staff "that were no less favourable overall than Agenda for Change - the standard for NHS workers."

Trust chief executive Jac Kelly said: "We've gone further today, with a target date of April 1 for full implementation of pay and conditions in line with NHS staff. We were prepared to recommend that to our board, which has the final say.

"It's very disappointing this has been rejected and we are faced with strike action when another meeting had already been agreed, and with ACAS involved.

"Our own staff will be doing all they can to make sure patients are looked after properly and safely. We trust that striking Sodexo staff will do nothing that might adversely affect those patients."

But Helen Eccles, Regional Organiser at Unison South West, said:

"Once again our members are being told they must wait for the national agreement to be applied.

"Funds were given to the trust to implement this more than three years ago and yet the trust is still telling our members to wait. "They have been waiting for three-and-a-half years and their patience has now been exhausted. They're simply asking for fair play.

"Unison's offer to the employer to stage the full implementation to members over two financial years has once again been rejected by the employer and the strike is therefore going ahead as of midnight tonight."

The sides are due to meet again on Thursday for more negotiations.

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