Hospital strike cover was brought in, admits Sodexo

EXTRA staff were brought in to cover the 48-hour strike at North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple, contractor Sodexo has admitted. Northern Devon Healthcare Trust yesterday (Wednesday) strongly denied it was responsible for rumoured additional staff

EXTRA staff were brought in to cover the 48-hour strike at North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple, contractor Sodexo has admitted.

Northern Devon Healthcare Trust yesterday (Wednesday) strongly denied it was responsible for rumoured additional staff brought in to do the jobs of the striking workers, who include caterers, housekeeping staff and porters.

The strikers, who are back to work today, and their representatives from Unison had described it as a "kick in the teeth" after claiming the incomers were on better rates of pay, had been bussed in from outside the area and put up for the two days at Barnstaple's Premier Inn.

Last night private company Sodexo, which employs staff for the hospital under contract from the trust, said it had made the arrangements.


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In response to a query from the North Devon Gazette, a spokesperson said: "We have a responsibility to deliver services effectively to patients and to ensure this, during the strike, volunteers, managers and staff from other sites have been working at the hospital.

"In some cases, due to the poor weather conditions and the fact that they have travelled long distances, some staff have been put up in a hotel. We would not disclose what individuals are paid as this is confidential information."

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The strike, which ended at midnight, saw groups of Sodexo Unison members picketing outside the hospital in wintry conditions, calling on passing drivers to sound their horns in support.

The dispute is about North Devon Sodexo workers not receiving sick pay or the same rates as other NHS and Sodexo staff elsewhere, who benefitted from a national Agenda for Change agreement brought in during October 2006.

The trust, Sodexo and Unison were scheduled to meet again today (Thursday) in conjunction with conciliation service ACAS to continue negotiations begun before the strike.

The trust also said yesterday it had brought in extra doctors and nurses to help the already busy hospital cope with the extreme wintry conditions. Most of these were put up in residential accommodation on the hospital site.

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