Employment

Hospital cleaners and security guards win battle to be brought in-house as NHS employees

The 1,800 mainly Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff at Barts NHS Trust had been on strike for two weeks over pay disparities.

Staff on the picket line outside St Barts Hospital. Image: Jeremy Jeffs

Hospital workers including cleaners, security guards, porters and caterers have won a landmark battle to be brought in-house as NHS employees after a two-week strike.

Almost 1,800 outsourced staff will become NHS employees after union Unite reached an agreement with Barts NHS Trust in London.

The strike took place over claims the mainly Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff employed by private sector company Serco were paid up to 15 per cent less than their colleagues who were directly employed by the NHS

The decision will now see them receive the same pay and benefits such as sick pay, holiday pay and pensions as NHS staff. 

Barts has confirmed the workers will be brought in-house, and said it will not renew the current contract with outsourced company Serco when it expires at the end of April 2023.

The trust emphasised all workers, including those outsourced to Serco, are paid at least the London Living Wage, but as NHS employees they will be able to move up the NHS pay scale.

The strike saw picket lines outside London hospitals including St Barts, Royal London and Whipps Cross. 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said the agreement will bring an end to “the two tier workforce.”

“Unite members and their representatives have shown impressive determination and resilience to reach this negotiated settlement. The workers are exposed to the same risks as NHS-employed staff, so it’s only right for them to be treated equally and brought back into NHS employment,” she said. 

Shane Degaris, chief executive at Barts NHS Trust, said: “Our porters, cleaners, security guards and domestic staff are the lifeblood of our hospitals and clinical colleagues could not do their vital work without them.

“We have always considered contracted employees to be part of our wider Barts Health family. However as we developed our WeBelong inclusion strategy to end racial discrimination, we realised that the trust had a responsibility to take practical steps to include all our employees, including the lowest-paid.”

Graham wrote on Twitter that Unite will now look to “ramp-up pressure on other trusts – they can no longer look the other way.”

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