By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter
SECURITY guards at Tameside Hospital are preparing to walk out on strike in a row over pay and shift patterns.
Staff employed by private contractor Engie Services Ltd within Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust have unanimously voted to take industrial action, says Unison.
Unless it is resolved they intend to strike from Monday, July 13 for 48 hours.
The dispute centres on their employer’s ‘failure to pay NHS rates’ and proposed changes to shift patterns that the security guards believe would be ‘detrimental to the service and staff’.
Union bosses argue their staff are being treated as ‘second class citizens’.
They say some of the security guards employed by the firm are paid only the minimum wage rate of £8.72 an hour, or lower for under-25s.
The lowest rate for security staff employed directly by the NHS is £9.89 per hour.
Taking into account overtime payments, Unison says most of the Tameside security staff are between £2,000-£3,000 worse off per year, with one worker almost £6,000 out of pocket.
Engie has now agreed to back-pay the security staff from April 2020 – a change from the earlier offer of October 2020.
However this is four months after the pay claim being submitted by members and Unison says the main issue around shift patterns remains ‘completely unresolved’.
A hospital security guard at Tameside Hospital, who did not want to be named, said: “We do challenging work and often have to put ourselves into dangerous situations, especially at the moment. We feel really undervalued.
“We really didn’t want to have to take this action. We postponed our strike because of the pandemic.
“We want to be there protecting our colleagues at the hospital but this has gone on long enough.
“We deserve the NHS rates for the job, without cuts to our hours which would see us lose out.”
Unison North West regional organiser Sue Glithero said: “Security staff put themselves in danger every day to keep patients and staff safe. ONS figures show that male security guards have the highest risk of dying as a result of COVID-19.
“This hidden workforce is being treated as second-class citizens – working within hospitals at great personal risk but not being considered part of the NHS. It’s time for this to end.
“We hope that Engie do the right thing before Tameside hospital security staff are forced to take strike action.”
The union says it has been trying to resolve the issue for ‘over six months’.
A spokesperson for Engie said: “We continue to have open dialogue with Unison regarding the pay and terms for our security guards at Tameside; and we have made it clear that we are open to further discussions.
“Our offer includes full implementation of Agenda for Change terms and conditions for our security team at Tameside and we have made a further enhanced offer to Unison: we await their response.
“It would not be appropriate for us to comment on the situation further at this time.”
A spokesperson from the Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust said the trust was made aware of the pay dispute between Unison and Engie back in March.
“While conversations at that point seemed positive they were quickly put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” they said.
“We are following these latest developments very closely and are meeting with both parties this week to try and promote a fast resolution to the dispute.
“Whilst the trust does not directly employ the security team it does, nevertheless, highly value their contribution, as they are hardworking, always happy to help and get involved and are a key part of the wider trust team.”