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Union members consider strike action over pay row at three Sussex hospitals

Members of a major union have this week voted overwhelmingly for strike action across three hospitals in Sussex.

Employees working as cleaners, porters and catering staff who are members of the GMB at Lewes Victoria, Crowborough Memorial and Uckfield Community hospitals have voted for strike action in a dispute over pay.

The GMB union argued that ongoing issues over moves to allegedly remove NHS Agenda for Change job descriptions and pay bandings without meaningful consultation with workers will lead to “inferior” internal pay scales and job evaluations from NHS Property Services (NHSPS).

The ballot, carried out by the Independent Scrutineer and which saw a 75.86% return, produced a unanimous 95.5% support for strike action as well as 100% support for action short of strike action.

This means that GMB members are now able to take positive action industrially to address the perceived unfair changes proposed by NHSPS, if a promised meeting to discuss an offer from their employer does not materialise or is unreasonably delayed in taking place.

But in a statement, the union did say that NHSPS had been cooperative so far and was likely to follow through on a promise to sit down and work out a solution before any strike action takes place.

Gary Palmer, GMB regional organiser, commented: “This result shows both the depth of disappointment and strength of resolve to ensure any detrimental changes proposed to date by NHSPS are not simply imposed.

“To their credit we have already heard back from NHSPS since passing on the ballot result to them, and our expectations are that they will follow through on their promise to now meet with us locally to seek a resolution acceptable to members, a resolution which means that staff will not lose money through what was portrayed as being purely an organisational transformation program in the beginning and not the pay cut it ended up looking like.”

Palmer also added that in light of NHSPS management’s willingness and desire to speak to the GMB about the possibility of an acceptable solution, the union will temporarily delay issuing strike notices to allow for talks to take place as a sign of good faith in return.

“GMB and its members now hope that we can resolve matters agreeably and do so quite quickly,” he continued. “It’s a shame that we couldn’t get to this point without having to threaten such drastic action.

“If not though, we will seek to return to opposing robustly any enforced changes through taking action in order to protect the terms and conditions of our members in early October in compliance with strike action legal notification requirements.”

A spokesperson for NHS Property Services told NHE: “We have made good progress in discussions so far, look forward to further talks with GMB and are confident we will reach a mutually agreeable outcome soon.”

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