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NHS pay gap ‘risks damaging health service beyond repair’, trade union warns

Thousands of privately contracted workers missed out on a £2,000 salary increase, Unison alleges

Andy Gregory
Sunday 07 April 2019 14:20 BST
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A widening pay gap in the NHS “risks damaging the health service beyond repair”, a leading union has warned.

Even the lowest paid NHS staff received a £2,000 pay rise last year but most privately contracted workers did not receive a penny, Unison said, adding that they were being treated like “second class citizens”.

The union’s head of health, Sara Gorton, called on the government to ensure that thousands of low-paid cleaners, porters, security guards and catering staff in hospitals across England are given the same pay rise as their colleagues.

The raise is part of a three-year deal negotiated by health unions, she said.

Patient care and the smooth running of the NHS are already being affected by the growing pay gap as many outsourced staff who have not seen a salary rise in years are forced to leave in search of better-paid work, Ms Gorton said.

“All hospital workers are part of the NHS team and should be paid fairly for the important jobs they do,” she said, on the eve of Unison’s annual health conference. “The days of treating them as second-class employees in the NHS must end. Staff employed by private contractors are expected to deliver the same exceptional levels of service and also work under immense pressure.

“It’s only fair they receive the same pay as colleagues often doing identical jobs but employed by the NHS. With ministers all-consumed by Brexit, the growing crisis in hospitals across the land is being ignored. The government found the money to fund the pay rise for health staff, now it must do the same for those on private contracts.

“A failure to do so risks damaging the health service beyond repair as firms can’t attract or hold on to the staff needed to provide a decent service to the NHS.”

According to Unison, many staff employed by private contractors are on the minimum wage, earning just £8.21 an hour, or £16,052 per year if working 37.5 hours a week.

This is in contrast with the lowest NHS rate of £9.03 an hour, resulting in £1,600 less each year for “identical” jobs.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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