'Time to end the injustice': Barts staff set to strike amid pay dispute

Barts Heath NHS Trust workers employed by Serco on strike and demanding a proper pay increase

Barts Health NHS Trust workers employed by Serco are calling for a two week strike - Credit: Archant

A number of east London hospitals are "putting measures in place" in case staff strikes over a pay dispute go ahead next month.

NHS workers employed by contract service providers Serco have called for two weeks of strike action across Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs Whitechapel's Royal London Hospital, as well as Mile End Hospital, Newham Hospital and Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone.

This comes as Unite union members at the four hospitals rejected a three per cent pay increase offer from Serco.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham urged the Trust to "end the injustice of a two-tier workplace" by bringing those currently employed by Serco back into NHS employment.

"These workers face the same risks as NHS-employed staff but they are paid significantly worse and treated disgracefully," said the union chief.

“Unite is 100 per cent behind our members' battle against low pay and exploitation."

Union members, including cleaners, porters, security, catering and reception staff, are due to walk out from next Monday - January 31 - until Sunday, 13 February.

Serco’s contract director for Barts, Taddy McAuley, called the proposed strike action "extremely disappointing" and "unnecessary".

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The director said the 3pc pay offer, backdated to April 2021, equates to the same wage as is received by workers directly employed by the NHS.

Barts has confirmed this is the case.

The Serco contract director also pointed to the company's £100 ex-gratia payment for its 52,000 frontline employees, including those at the Trust.

"We look forward to further discussions with Unite and hope to work together to find a resolution," he added.

Deputy group chief executive at Barts, Shane DeGaris, said the Trust will be "considering future arrangements of the facilities management contract" over the next 13 months, which could include bringing some services back in-house.

Mr DeGaris added: "We are hopeful that this matter can be resolved but are working with Serco to put the appropriate measures in place and ensure hospital services are supported if strike action does go ahead."

However, Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed said both bodies have "dragged their feet and offered too little too late". 

Calling for pay parity, the officer added: "The Trust allowed Serco to exploit and underpay the workforce by outsourcing this services contract."