“If we need to strike to get fair pay and recognition then one hundred per cent we will. Dedicated, skilled, compassionate people are leaving to take better paid jobs elsewhere.”Sarah, a clinical support worker at Arrowe Park Hospital
Over 400 health staff at Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (WUTH) have voted overwhelmingly for strike action over pay.
An overwhelming majority (99%) of clinical support workers voted to strike in a recent UNISON ballot. Industrial action is now imminent unless the trust makes an improved offer to staff, says the union.
Clinical support workers (CSWs) deliver essential care alongside nursing staff on the wards. They’re employed across the trust’s sites at Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge hospitals on the Wirral.
UNISON says these employees should be paid at least £2,000 more a year because they are performing duties and tasks well above their pay grade.
The NHS says that CSWs on a low pay band* like those at WUTH should only be undertaking personal care like supporting patients with going to the toilet, bathing and feeding.
But a survey by the union has found that most CSWs at the bottom of the band 2 pay scale are routinely undertaking clinical tasks like taking and monitoring blood, electrocardiogram (ECG) tests, and inserting cannulas.
UNISON says that according to NHS job role profiles, all these duties should be paid according to at least a band 3 salary, which is nearly £2,000 a year more.
A total of seven health trusts across the North West have moved many low-paid CSWs staff onto the higher rate, and paid the affected staff backpay to April 2018. This is in response to campaigns by UNISON.
However, WUTH has refused to draw up a similar agreement, a collective grievance signed by over 400 staff.
Instead, the trust has offered to backdate pay to their CSWs to December 2022. This would mean these employees would receive thousands of pounds less than those in other North West trusts. A petition in support of the workers, addressed to trust chief executive Janelle Holmes and chair Sir David Henshaw, has received more than 1,600 signatures.
UNISON North West regional organiser David McKnight said: “Clinical support workers want to provide exceptional care to people across the Wirral. But the trust has exploited the goodwill of dedicated staff by getting them to provide care on the cheap.
“The workers have been reasonable throughout. They’ve submitted a collective grievance and met with the trust many times to try to resolve the situation.
“The majority of CSWs have been working well above their band for many years. It’s time the trust did the right thing and paid up to avoid strike action.”
Deborah, a clinical support worker at Arrowe Park Hospital, said: “Staff feel taken for granted. These clinical tasks are part and parcel of the job and the hospitals wouldn’t function if CSWs didn’t work above their pay grade.
“It looks like WUTH will be the first trust in the country where it will take strike action to resolve this issue. It shouldn’t have come to this. No one wants to strike but staff are determined and ready to fight for what they deserve.”
Sarah, a clinical support worker at Arrowe Park Hospital, said: “This job requires a high level of compassion for our patients, so voting for strike action was a difficult decision.
“But if we need to strike to get fair pay and recognition then one hundred per cent we will. Dedicated, skilled, compassionate people are leaving to take better paid jobs elsewhere.
“The trust has underpaid us for years and it really hurts that managers won’t acknowledge this. We won’t stop until we get what we’re owed.
“For me and many others, five years is a small fraction of what has been decades-long service.”
- You can add your name to the petition demanding fair pay for Wirral’s clinical support workers here.
- This article was originally published by a newsletter from the UNISON press team.
- UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. You can follow UNISON on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.