‘Shortchanged’ Colchester and Ipswich healthcare support staff vote to strike

More than 300 staff at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) have voted to strike after years of not being paid the full rate for the job, says UNISON today.

An overwhelming 96% of clinical support staff backed strike action in a formal ballot, says the union.

The workers, employed at the trust’s main acute hospitals in Colchester and Ipswich and across multiple community sites, carry out essential clinical tasks alongside their nursing colleagues.

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

But the workers regularly undertake clinical tasks like inserting cannulas, carrying out electrocardiogram (ECG) tests or taking bloods, which should be paid at band 3, says the union.

Following UNISON pressure, ESNEFT has moved the workers to the higher band – worth nearly £2,000 a year more for experienced staff. But the trust has refused to compensate them properly for the years spent working above their pay grade, says the union.

In similar banding disputes elsewhere, trusts have agreed to recognise employees’ extra work as far back as August 2018, but ESNEFT is only offering workers back pay to April 2021.

UNISON says workers are keen to avoid industrial action and has written to senior managers at the trust urging them back to the negotiating table to discuss an improved offer.

In a separate dispute at ESNEFT, hundreds of cleaners, caterers, porters and security guards are currently voting on strikes over plans to move facilities services out of the NHS.

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.

“Staff are fed up of being shortchanged. They’ve tried to get a fair deal through months of negotiations, yet senior managers are refusing to put their hands in their pockets.

“They’re left with no choice but to take industrial action. The trust can still stop this by coming back to the table and making an offer that gives staff the recognition and respect they deserve.”