Wirral hospitals staff announce second round of strike action – UNISON


“These workers are a vital part of the NHS but they’ve been underpaid for years for the roles and responsibilities they perform. It’s time the trust leadership do the right thing and pay staff properly”

Christina McAnea, UNISON General Secretary

By Unison North West

Hundreds of health staff at Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (WUTH) will begin a further 72 hours of strike action from Monday (11 September) after failing to reach an agreement over their pay, says UNISON today (Tuesday).

More than 500 clinical support workers (CSWs), who assist nursing staff in delivering care on the wards, will walk out from 7am – their second walkout in a fortnight. Trust managers are yet to make an improved offer of back-pay to appropriately reward the years that CSWs have been working above their pay band, says the union.

A group of the striking workers met with the employer yesterday (Monday), to attempt to reach an agreement, but the meeting failed to produce an outcome that would avert next week’s action. 

UNISON insists action will continue until staff are promised back pay to April 2018, in line with other North West trusts.

The workers affected are employed across the trust’s sites at Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge hospitals. UNISON says they should be paid up to £2,000 more each year for performing duties and tasks well above their pay grade. 

They took 48 hours of strike action last week, from 7am Thursday 31 August to Saturday 2 September.

NHS policy states that CSWs on a low pay band like those at WUTH should only be undertaking personal care. This includes supporting patients with going to the toilet, bathing, and feeding.     

But a survey by UNISON has found that most CSWs at the band 2 pay scale are routinely undertaking clinical tasks such as 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 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 onto the higher rate and paid the affected staff backpay to April 2018. This is in response to campaigns by UNISON. 

Last week, UNISON announced that East Cheshire NHS Trust has offered to match these agreements.

However, the Wirral trust has refused to draw up a similar agreement, despite 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 back pay than those in other North West trusts, says UNISON.  

The action by the CSWs is backed by several Wirral politicians, including MPs Margaret Greenwood and Mick Whitley, and Wirral council leader Paul Stuart. They have written to the managers of Wirral’s hospitals, with Whitley and Greenwood attending the picket lines last week.

Next Monday – the first day of the latest walkout – some of the Wirral strikers will open the day’s business at the annual national Trades Union Congress in Liverpool, where they will speak to trade union leaders from across the country about their dispute.

David McKnight, UNISON North West regional organiser, said: “The trust still refuses to do the right thing and pay these workers what they’re owed.

“Agreements in Greater Manchester and the offer in East Cheshire show that trusts have the power to resolve this issue without staff being forced to take any strike action. These employees just want to get back to work but they’re determined to be treated the same as their colleagues in other trusts. They’re hurt that their trust doesn’t value them in the same way.

“The union’s demand is clear. Staff must have full back-pay to April 2018 and should be involved in negotiations until the process is resolved. Until then, workers will continue their campaign.”

UNISON General Secretary Christina McAnea said: “These workers are a vital part of the NHS but they’ve been underpaid for years for the roles and responsibilities they perform. It’s time the trust leadership do the right thing and pay staff properly with the wages they deserve.”

Wirral West MP Margaret Greenwood said: “I was pleased to be able to join Clinical Support Workers at Arrowe Park Hospital to show my support for their campaign for fair pay and back-pay that reflects the reality of the jobs that they have been doing.  

“It is clear from the turnout on the picket line and by the show of support from vehicles passing by that these workers have the backing of the local community. 

“I am calling on Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to engage constructively with them and Unison and seek to bring about a swift resolution to this dispute.”

  • You can read the letter in full and view the full list of signatories here.
  • You can add your name to the petition demanding fair pay for Wirral’s clinical support workers here.
  • You can follow UNISON North West on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Featured image: Rally in support of Wirral Hospitals’ clinical support workers (CSWs) and their fight for fair pay. Photo credit: Neville Southall/UNISON NW

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