GMB calls for intervention of NHS trust to avoid strike at GWH

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GMB call on intervention of NHS Trust to avoid strike action at Great Western Hospital following collapse of Carillion.

The collapse of Carillion makes strike action at Swindon’s GWH hospital almost inevitable says GMB Southern
GMB, the trade union for housekeepers, porters and catering staff employed by Carillion at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon calls on the NHS trust to urgently intervene to avoid strike action. [See notes to editors for previous GMB releases on Carillion at the Great Western Hospital]
GMB members at the Great Western Hospital (GWH) in Swindon are one step closer to industrial action as talks designed to avoid strikes have failed due to the collapse of the company.
GMB members will be meeting on Saturday evening to plan their strike action, and GMB anticipates that the formal steps to arrange a formal industrial ballot will be initiated shortly afterwards.
Given the failure of Carillion as a company, the notice of any such industrial action ballot may need to be served on both the local management and the administrators, Price Waterhouse Cooper.
Andy Newman, Wiltshire and Swindon GMB Branch Secretary said:
“GMB has been speaking to the Carillion regional HR Director, but the issues cannot be resolved at regional level. Indeed, GMB had asked the regional HR Director to arrange bilateral talks between the local Carillion management at GWH Trust level, and the local GMB reps, to seek resolution.
“Unfortunately, the local GWH management of Carillion are refusing to engage in talks with GMB to avoid conflict, and therefore strike action, which could easily be avoided by such talks, is looking increasingly inevitable.
“I regret that the failure of Carillion as a company means that the regional HR people at Carillion are now out of the equation as an intermediary, and therefore GMB has literally no one to talk to on the management side to seek a resolution.
“GMB are therefore encouraging the NHS Foundation Trust’s directors to step in to require the local Carillion management to engage with GMB for bilateral talks, in order to avoid industrial action.
“GMB are of course aware that Serco may be taking over the contract at some future point. GMB can confirm that we have had made contact with Serco, and the talks we have had with them so far seem encouraging. But while the potential takeover by Serco remains likely, the collapse of Carillion has occurred before the deal had final approval, and therefore there is now an element of risk that it may not happen
“Unfortunately, the issues are so pressing for our members that we cannot wait for the uncertainty about ownership of the contract to be resolved, as our members are affected right now, as they cannot book holidays for 2018, and therefore GMB has no choice other than to proceed with our plans for industrial action.
“The most substantial issue is that with around 170 housekeepers, Carillion do not employ enough ‘floating’ staff to cover holiday and sickness.
“On 6th January, Carillion issued a staff information notice, showing that for a staggeringly high number of dates the holiday entitlement was already fully taken. It is already almost impossible for staff to take whole blocks of one or two weeks for most of the year.
“We are informed that Carillion are sending some staff home two hours early at the end of their shift, and taking this from their holiday entitlement, GMB regard this as both unethical and probably unlawful.
“In addition, staff are prevented from swapping more than two shifts per year, which makes the holiday issue even worse, as it means that staff are prevented from attending doctor, dentist or other appointments.”
Contact: Andy Newman 0754 0859 227 or GMB Press Office 07970 114 762
Notes to Editors
GMB Press Release
GMB consults members over possible strike action at Great Western Hospital (21 Dec 2017)
GMB, the union for in the health and care sectors, is carrying out a consultative vote amongst housekeepers, cleaners, porters and catering staff employed by Carillion at Great Western Hospital (GWH) in Swindon that could lead to strike action in the new year over the treatment of these staff.
The facilities management contract for the GWH is currently run by Carillion, but it was recently announced that rival company, Serco, would shortly be taking over the management.
Andy Newman, GMB branch secretary, said: “GMB are calling on Serco and the Great Western NHS trust to urgently step in to resolve the deteriorating problems at GWH, caused by Carillion’s chaotic management. We welcome the decision of Carillion to quit the health sector, as their aggressive ‘profits first’ approach is not compatible with the values of the NHS.
“There are currently simply not enough staff employed in housekeeping to allow cover for holidays and sickness. Carillion claims that overall they are providing the contracted hours of cleaning to the NHS, but this is not always true on a day to day basis. When staff are sick, Carillion is not covering their work, and cleaners are regularly instructed to “just do the basics”, and, for example, instead of the 6 hours cleaning required by the contract on a particular ward just 3 hours cleaning are done. GMB believes that this may be putting staff and patient safety at risk. Carillion managers have refused to say what they consider to be the basics, and are therefore forcing cleaners to decide for themselves which parts of the wards are not cleaned. Our members are telling us that the standard of cleaning has gone down.
“Because there are not enough floating staff to cover holidays, staff are already being turned down when they apply for holidays in 2018, as January, April, August and December are already fully taken. During the last holiday year, some staff were unable to take their contractual holiday hours, and Carillion even refused to give them financial compensation for this lost time.
“The Carillion Management were found guilty of seven cases of racial discrimination at the GWH at an employment tribunal in Bristol in 2016, and GMB members continue to flag up concerns of discrimination. Scandalously, when over 100 GMB members put in a collective grievance during 2017, which they have a legal right to do, which included concerns about racial discrimination in the process of promoting supervisors and other matters, Carillion refused to follow the statutory process, and refused to allow a GMB representative to attend the meeting, even though this is a legal right.
“GMB have sought to resolve matters privately with Carillion but we just get the run around, so we are asking members whether they would consider industrial action, which of course is always the last resort in the NHS”