Same risk should mean same reward, says UNISON

Porters and cleaners at Epsom & St Helier NHS Trust demand equal treatment and fair pay

Over 1000 NHS staff have signed a UNISON petition calling on Epsom & St Helier NHS Trust to pay their estates and facilities staff the COVID lump sum payment, and to put them on agenda for change contracts.

The estates and facilities workforce, including porters, cleaners, caterers and patient transport staff, make up some of the lowest paid staff in the NHS. The staff were originally employed by private company Mitie, but were brought back in house in June 2021.

However, all the staff remain on inferior contracts to their NHS colleagues and a consequence of this is they didn’t receive the recent COVID lump sum payment which had been negotiated by the unions at a national level, despite now being directly employed by the NHS.

The petition was handed in to the Trust board on Friday 8th September, urging the employer to do the right thing and recognise their vital work during the COVID pandemic.

UNISON steward and porter Ian Parker said: “We appreciate the Trust giving us the opportunity to present our petition and explain our case. All we are asking is that the Trust recognise us as part of the health care team.

“When we found out that those on agenda for change contracts (NHS-employed staff contracts) were getting a lump sum in back pay, in recognition of their commitment during COVID but because we were on an inferior contracts, we weren’t getting it, it really hurt. It feels like we were once hailed as heroes but now we’ve been forgotten.”

UNISON member and porter Farrokh Hormuz said: “Working through the pandemic was a really tough time for everyone at the Trust. Many of the people we work alongside are from ethnic backgrounds and therefore faced increased health risks if they caught COVID. Because of the nature of our jobs, we couldn’t work from home. Every one of the estates and facilities staff, physically came into work during lockdown, day in and day out, to perform their duties. Tragically we lost one of our colleagues who died from COVID.”

UNISON London regional organiser Michael Walker said: ”We remain hopeful the Trust will now take the necessary action required to ensure all staff receive Agenda for Change pay and are treated as part of the NHS family.”