Some of the NHS’s lowest paid staff held a demonstration to demand Barnet and Chase Farm NHS Trust honours its promise to provide better pay and conditions today.
Unison representatives joined hospital porters, cleaners and catering staff who used their lunch break to protest outside Barnet Hospital in Wellhouse Lane.
They blamed Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust (BCF) for failing to follow through with an agreement to offer better pay and conditions for its Medirest staff, which includes some of the NHS’s lowest paid workers.
Derek Helyar, the Unison representative for Barnet and Chase Farm, said the trust completed the first phase, which saw staff put onto standard pay bands, before calling a halt to the rest of the plans.
He said: “Phase two was supposed to look at things like over time, enhanced and unsocial hours and phase three was looking at annual leave and sick pay. But in 2011 they chose not to pay it because of they were in deficit.”
Mr Helyar said workers grew annoyed after learning the trust had spent more than £3million on external consultants, including £500,000 on a consultation about the agreement.
He said: “Our argument is that instead of wasting public funds, pouring money down the drains, they could have honoured the agreement to pay their lowest paid staff.”
Jackie Mutua, who cooks and serves food to hospital patients, said she and her colleagues were promised paid sick leave, as well as increased pay for working “unsociable” hours such as weekends and bank holidays, and an increase in holiday leave from 20 days to 28.
She said: “The trust has not kept its promise to us and it’s totally unfair. We only get statutory sick pay, even if we fall ill from working at the hospital.
“We work really hard to look after our patients and just as hard as nurses and doctors. We want our pay to reflect that.”
Phil Weiland, who has worked as a porter at Chase Farm Hospital for four years, said: “We’re working on a flat rate for everything we do including Christmas Day and bank holidays and no sick pay.
“Both me and my manager recently had a similar illness and he was off for three weeks whereas I could only afford to be off for three days. I just couldn’t afford to be off sick.
“We work really hard, and porters are really proud of what they do. It’s more than pushing people from A to B, we build relationships with people.
“We see life and death, happiness and sadness and sometimes that can affect us as well. It’s a beautiful job but staff should be honoured for the hard work they do.”
BCF and Medirest released a statement which said they are in “on-going discussions” with Barnet Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust and Unison, and that no services were impacted during today’s demonstration.
The statement adds: “Regarding the use of consultancy staff, the trust is committed to working cost-effectively. Occasionally there are areas where external support is necessary such as to support a specific project.
"This may be caused by the trust being unable to free up internal staff because we continue to have a responsibility to maintain ‘business as usual’ or there is also some highly specialised and short-term work in areas where we simply lack the in-house expertise.
“In such cases the trust will procure external consultancy using best practice guidelines with clear key performance indicators that the provider must deliver against to ensure value for money.”