Two days of hospital strikes start on January 5

TWO-DAY strikes among cleaners, caterers and porters at North Devon hospitals will go ahead on Tuesday, January 5. Almost 200 Sodexo staff who are Unison members voted unanimously today (Wednesday) to commence industrial action after it emerged talks yest

TWO-DAY strikes among cleaners, caterers and porters at North Devon hospitals will go ahead on Tuesday, January 5.

Almost 200 Sodexo staff who are Unison members voted unanimously today (Wednesday) to commence industrial action after it emerged talks yesterday with Northern Devon Healthcare Trust and Sodexo management had failed to reach agreement.

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.

The initial 48 hours of strike action will commence one minute after midnight on January 5.


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Earlier today the trust pledged to ensure all staff working for Sodexo would be moved to pay and conditions in line with Agenda for Change - the NHS standard.

To show good faith, it said it will be increasing the value of its contract with Sodexo, which provides support services such as cleaning and catering, to cover sick pay and increased annual leave from January 1.

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The trust also made a commitment to continue working with Sodexo and Unison towards a final agreement on implementation and timescales, with the assistance of Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS.)

The trust said another meeting for more negotiations had been set with Unison for January 7.

Unison said its members had been waiting more than three years for the trust and Sodexo to implement the national agreement that would bring fairness to all staff at North Devon District Hospital.

Helen Eccles, Regional Organiser at UNISON South West, said:

"We are now seeking immediate authorisation from the Unison Industrial Action Committee for this action to proceed.

"We met with the trust and Sodexo yesterday and whilst they have agreed to implement sick pay and the correct annual leave entitlement, they are still asking our members to wait for full implementation of the national agreement.

"The trust and Sodexo failed to give any commitment regarding how long this wait would be and at what cost.

"Unison welcomes the fact that the Trust has committed to increasing the funding of the Sodexo contract, but we are concerned at suggestions that jobs will be cut as this may well undermine the excellent quality of services that these members provide to the public of North Devon."

She added:

"Unison has offered to cancel all annual leave and meet with the trust and Sodexo next week in an attempt to resolve this dispute and thereby avoid industrial action.

"ACAS have also said they will be available between now and the New Year to attend and facilitate meetings. However, the trust has told us the earliest they can meet is on January 7.

"Our members don't want to take industrial action. They've waited three years for the National Agreement to be implemented, despite the fact that the Trust has already received the funds.

"We are doing everything we can to avoid industrial action, however, it seems that the trust and Sodexo are determined to drag this out yet further. Our members simply want to know when they will receive fair play."

She concluded:

"The hospital is one of the top rated hospitals in the South West in terms of cleanliness which is down to the dedication and commitment of these staff. The staff are simply asking for the recognition they deserve and for the long overdue agreement to be implemented now without further delay."

Deputy Chief Executive Jo Gibbs said: "We're committed to increase funding for the Sodexo contract so their staff can be brought into line with their colleagues employed by NHS. It will be a time for careful reflection, with Acas help, as we move towards final agreement.

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