A campaign for better pay for healthcare assistants (HCAs) has escalated further, as strikes are confirmed at yet another NHS trust.
HCAs, alongside medical imaging assistants (MIAs), at Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will walk out next week as part of a dispute around Agenda for Change banding and backpay.
“We as HCAs have had enough of not being paid for the work we do”
Mid Cheshire healthcare assistant
The workers demanded, as part of a national campaign run by Unison, to have their pay upgraded from band 2 to 3 to reflect the fact they have been performing clinical, not just personal, care duties. They also demanded backpay to April 2018 to reflect the longevity of the issue.
Mid Cheshire agreed in principle to up-band the workers, but Unison said the trust’s offer – made in August – of backpay to 1 January 2020 fell short of what the workers deserved.
The HCAs at Mid Cheshire will now walk out for 25 hours three times next week from 7am on Monday (16 October), Wednesday (18 October), and Friday (20 October).
More than 450 staff are set to strike outside Leighton Hospital in Crewe, the Elmhurst Centre in Winsford, and Northwich’s Victoria Infirmary.
Sue, an HCA at Leighton Hospital who did not provide her last name, said: “We as HCAs have had enough of not being paid for the work we do.
“We’ve gone above and beyond for years, carrying out duties at a higher banding than we’re paid for.
“We have found our voices to finally speak up for what we deserve. Our trust should be ashamed to force its HCAs to have to go on strike for what they deserve.”
This cohort of HCAs is the third in the North West of England to announce strikes over the same issues in recent months.
Clinical support workers (CSWs) and other nursing support staff at Warrington and Halton NHS Foundation Trust and Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust all walked out over the last month, and are, Unison has said, due to announce more strikes “imminently”.
Meanwhile, Unison said seven other NHS trusts in the North West of England had agreed to up-band their HCAs and issue backpay to April 2018, including East Cheshire NHS Trust, which made a formal offer to the union recently.
David McKnight, Unison North West regional organiser, said members at Mid Cheshire were “really disappointed” by the breakdown in negotiations.
“These workers have shown years of dedication by providing outstanding care to people across Mid Cheshire,” Mr McKnight said.
“The trust has refused to pay HCAs what they’re owed and seems to think they can get away with providing care on the cheap.”
He further claimed the trust’s chief executive had signed a pledge to match offers made by other North West trusts, and that the resultant deal was “especially disappointing” as a result.
“East Cheshire have demonstrated that this can be resolved, and if [Mid Cheshire leaders] insist that their workers are worth less than those in East Cheshire, then they can’t be surprised if workers move to a trust that values them more,” he added.
“It’s time the trust stopped taking these workers for granted. We call on them to do the right thing and to match other trusts’ agreements to avoid strike action.”
Russ Favager, deputy chief executive officer and chief finance officer for Mid Cheshire, said leadership was “listening” to the HCA and MIA staff.
Mr Favager said: “Our HCAs and MIAs are a vital part of our workforce, and we value the work they do. It is our position that they should be paid the right banding for the work we are asking them to do.
“The trust remains committed to working collaboratively with Unison and we would like to reassure our valued healthcare assistants, medical imaging assistants and our local communities that we will be doing everything we can to minimise the impact on our patients.”
The deputy CEO said the trust had “robust” plans to maintain patient safety throughout the strike period.
According to Unison, a band 2 HCA should only perform personal care duties, pointing to NHS guidance on pay. They can be paid up to £22,383 as of current Agenda for Change banding.
A band 3 worker, meanwhile, can earn up to £24,336 after two years in the job.
This means the backpay deal for some HCAs could be worth almost £10,000.
The disputes at Mid Cheshire, Wirral University Teaching Hospital, and Warrington and Halton are all part of Unison’s HCA pay campaign which it formally launched earlier this year.