Strikes loom for North Devon hospitals after talks fail

STRIKE action of Sodexo staff at local hospitals could start within seven days after talks between union representatives and management failed to reach an agreement.

STRIKE action of Sodexo staff at local hospitals could start within seven days after talks between union representatives and management failed to reach an agreement.

Industrial action by cooks, cleaners and porters looks increasingly likely after the crunch meeting yesterday (Tuesday) between Unison and representatives from both Sodexo and Northern Devon Healthcare Trust.

The union had been calling for sick pay plus better pay and holiday rates for its members, which it says they have been entitled to following a national agreement in October 2006.

Unison members are due to vote today (Wednesday) on whether to proceed with industrial action and if they give the go ahead it could start within seven days.


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At yesterday's talks, the union said an offer from the trust to implement sick pay and additional holidays from January 1 "falls way short of the actual nationally agreed terms and conditions."

It said the trust refused to accept its responsibility to give the low paid workers the terms they had been entitled to for more than three years.

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Unison is also calling for monies it says members are owed to be backdated to 2006.

It said the trust had again rejected an offer from Unison to stage the implementation over two financial years, with full terms from January 1 and the three years outstanding arrears to be paid in April 2010.

"The trust and Sodexo have a moral obligation to these low paid workers to pay them the terms they are entitled to and to recognise that they have been unfairly denied those terms for the last three years," said Helen Eccles, Regional Organiser for Unison.

"North Devon District Hospital has an outstanding reputation in terms of cleanliness and infection control. it is these workers who deliver that excellent reputation.

"The cleaners, porters, domestics and catering staff have spoken clearly in the strike ballot via a 97 per cent 'yes' vote. The trust and Sodexo are spurning every opportunity to settle this. Today's offer of sick pay is sick pay on the wrong rates, rates that are lower than Agenda for Change pays. The offer on holidays does not take into account the last three years.

"No other member of staff in the hospital - nurse, doctor, consultant, clerical worker, manager - has had to forego these conditions so why should these essential but low paid workers?"

Unison said other areas still unresolved are the annual pay rates, overtime rates, unsocial and weekend working rates, the length of the working week and the back pay associated with all of these stretching back three years.

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