Hundreds of NHS staff vote for strike action

More than 300 staff from an NHS Trust have voted to strike after years of feeling "short changed".

Colchester and Ipswich healthcare support staff from East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) backed the action in a formal ballot, a UNISON spokesperson said.

The vote came after years of not being paid the full rate for the job, Eastern regional organiser for UNISON Sam Older claimed.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of ESNEFT, said: "We truly value our healthcare support workers and the work they do every day to help patients and staff in our hospitals."

The staff have been employed on band 2 of the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale which meant they should only undertake personal care tasks such as bathing or feeding patients, a UNISON spokesperson said.

However, staff have been doing clinical tasks such as inserting cannulas, carrying out electrocardiogram (ECG) tests or taking bloods, which should be paid at band 3, the spokesperson added.

UNISON said the trust has moved the workers to the higher band, which is worth nearly £2,000 a year more for experienced staff, but had failed to compensate staff properly for the years spent working above their pay grade.

Members of UNISON said they would prefer to avoid industrial action and wrote to senior managers to urge the trust to negotiate an improved letter.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Sam Older said: “These healthcare support workers are dedicated to providing exceptional care to their patients.

"But the trust has been exploiting their goodwill for years to get care on the cheap.

"They’ve tried to get a fair deal through months of negotiations, yet senior managers are refusing to put their hands in their pockets."

He added that staff were "fed-up of being short changed".

Mr Hulme said the trust valued its healthcare support workers.

"We’ve been working closely with our trade union colleagues for two years to implement changes following a national review of band two and three health support worker job roles," he said.

"This has included the amount of back pay that will be awarded to colleagues. Although the trust’s provisional offer was accepted by other unions, this offer was rejected by Unison.

"We have since been actively working with Unison, with the support of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, to resolve the issue about back pay.

"We had hoped we had come to a mutually agreed position after those discussions, which we understood Unison would be recommending to its members to avoid industrial action.

"We have never left the negotiating table and hope to find a resolution with our Unison colleagues quickly."

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