NHS clinical support staff in Wirral go on strike in first of its kind in England

Hundreds of NHS workers are on strike in a dispute described as the first of its kind in England.

Around 500 members of Unison working as clinical support staff at Wirral Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust began strike action on 31 August for 48 hours.

The union members voted overwhelmingly (99 per cent) to strike in a dispute over pay.

Unison said the employees should be paid at least £2,000 more a year because they are performing duties and tasks above their pay grade.

The union said the strike will be the first on the issue in England. It is not linked to the current national NHS strikes about pay issues.

A picket line has formed outside Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral. Credit: ITV Granada

James Bull, Regional Health Lead for Unity North West said: "Healthcare assistants have been taking more and more responsibilities on but they've not been paid the proper rate for the job.

"They're asking for a fair deal to be paid for what they are doing.

"The majority of hospital trusts in Greater Manchester have resolved this without industrial action.

"What we can see here is a great deal of anger with how they've been treated by hospital management.

"I think many of our members have had enough of being taken for granted. We have given every opportunity for the trust to come forward with a reasonable proposal to resolve this."

Arrowe Park Hospital is one of two hospitals on the Wirral which was affected by the strike action. Credit: ITV Granada

Part of the dispute includes how far back an offer for backpay should be made. UNISON wants this to go back to April 2018.

Ryan Pierce, a Clinical Support Workers said: "A lot of my colleagues, myself included, have felt very undervalued. We are asking for our skills to be recognised.

"Surely this voice should start the movement now. We have skills to do more, we're simply asking to be paid for it."

Local Labour MPs are supporting the workers, including Margaret Greenwood, MP for Wirral West, who said: “I stand firmly with Wirral’s clinical support workers who are taking strike action in their campaign for fair pay, respect and recognition at work.

Clinical support worker's feel they are not currently paid fairly for the level of work they undertake. Credit: PA Images

Tracy Fennell, Chief Nurse at Wirral University Teaching Hospital said: “Our Clinical Support Workers are a vital and valued part of our workforce.

"We agree that they should be paid the right banding for the work we are asking them to do.

“In May 2023, we made a pledge to work with Trade Unions to make this happen and we set up a joint working group.

"We made an offer for consideration of any re-grading to go back to December 2022, which is when we last reviewed Clinical Support Worker job descriptions with our Trade Unions.

"This offer has been rejected by UNISON. We remain open to working with UNISON to reach a resolution on this matter. In the meantime, we are continuing the work to deliver our pledge.

“In regard to the strike action, we are extremely disappointed that UNISON have failed to attend preparation meetings.

"Such meetings are common practice in the lead up to any strike action, to plan for the maintenance of patient, staff and picket line safety.

“We would like to reassure residents of Wirral that we are doing everything we can to minimise impact on patients of this planned strike action.”

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