Published: 04/01/2010

UNISON members at the North Devon hospital Trust employed by Sodexo have voted by a massive 97% in favour of strike action over unpaid wages and conditions going back over 3 years to 1st October 2006. The strike  is due to start at midnight on 4th January for 2 days followed by weekly action.

The dispute is over the refusal of the Trust and Sodexo to pay full  terms and conditions  agreed with the National Health Service (NHS), the trade unions and private contractors in a Joint National Statement in 2005. This was part of this was part of an agreement to end  the two tier workforce in the NHS.

Instead the Trust has used the funding  to help reduce its £8 million deficit. The Trust now has no deficit but the workers have been told there is no money left for their 3 year back pay or for the payment of the improvements in wages and terms.

The workforce has organised itself in the last few months in order to campaign for their entitlements. Membership has rise from 45 to 213 since June this year and they now have an organising committee of 5 stewards. Members are still only receiving £6.77 an hour plus an attendance allowance of 22p an hour. Most get no enhanced pay for overtime, weekend working, evening or overnight work. Few are in a pension scheme.

In an effort to avert the strike the Trust and Sodexo have announced that they will now pay sick pay arrangements for all from the 1st January and will honour the holiday entitlements of Agenda for Change from the same date. But this will take no account for the 3 years unpaid rates and will still be paid on the wrong rates.

UNISON, which is likely to become an IUF member in 2010, is a major British public sector union with more than 1.3 million members working in the public services, for private contractors providing public services and in the essential utilities. They include frontline staff and managers working full or part time in local authorities, the NHS, the police service, colleges and schools, the electricity, gas and water industries, transport and the voluntary sector.