Privatised ex-NHS staff at Birmingham’s Heartlands hospital have accepted a deal which will see them reach parity with NHS pay and conditions by 2007. The deal was offered to them by Initial Hospital Services and Birmingham Heartlands management after the workers planned strikes in protest against the “two-tier workforce”.
NHS-employed staff were going to be up to £1 an hour better off than privatised staff doing the same work.
The deal is by no means ideal — this year's pay rise will be only 3.22% and the levelling up to Agenda for Change pay rates will take two and a half years. But it does represent a chance for the NHS unions to deliver on their rhetoric.
General Secretary Dave Prentis and other NHS union leaders had seized on the commitment made at this year’s Labour Party conference that the two-tier workforce would be ended “within weeks” as justification for acceptance of Agenda for Change — it provided a framework for the unions to win deals for staff with private contractors.
At Birmingham Heartlands “within weeks” means “within two and a half years”. And it doesn’t mean the end of private businesses squeezing profits out of cleaning our hospitals, either — it just means they’ll have to do it whilst paying the same rate as the NHS. They’ll continue to be able to set staffing levels and work patterns as they see fit.
There are many private contractor staff who earn way below the new AfC minimum of £5.69 per hour. Many more who lack decent sick pay, holiday pay and pension entitlements. The Heartlands deal offers a platform for a serious fight by the NHS unions to win parity for all privatised staff.
By a health worker