HOSPITAL workers across Buckinghamshire have voted to ballot on strike action after a two-year dispute about sick pay.
More than 200 workers who are contracted to private firm Medirest for the NHS are expected to decided in the next couple of weeks whether to strike, amid widespread unhappiness about their terms of employment.
Wycombe and Amersham hospitals currently employ a number of cleaning, portering and catering staff from the contractor, which is owned by Compass Group.
Steve Bell, the secretary of Bucks Health Union branch, is deeply unhappy about their pay conditions.
He said: “They should be on the same contract as NHS workers with the same terms and conditions, but talks completely broke down.
“Is is totally unfair and I’m proud of the members’ decision to ballot for strike action.”
The Compass Group employs more than 380,000 people in 55 countries. There are 59 Medirest employees at Amersham Hospital.
Mr Bell continued: “Despite making £773million profit last year, Medirest’s owners are saying the trust hasn’t got the money to pay them – someone should be paying them.”
Medirest staff get statutory sick pay of only £79.15 a week, compared with the full pay for at least one month that NHS staff receive.
The other issue is that Medirest workers receive sick pay only after three days of illness – the statutory legal minimum – whereas NHS pays its own staff immediately.
Mr Bell added: “The decision to go to ballot was a unanimous one though and we’ve had a great response to the petition. In addition, lots of Medirest workers have now joined Unison.”
Spokesmen for Medirest and Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust could not be reached before the Examiner went to press.