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There may be trouble ahead...
The GMB union, which looks after the interests of staff in the health service, including cleaners, refuse collectors, litter pickers, caterering staff, porters and the like, has notified Cleanzine of two potential disputes: one at Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals over what the union says is Sodexo's failure to deal with staff concerns over lack of equipment 'with implications for patient safety' and the other is at the Royal Parks as OCS seeks to move from weekly to monthly pay in St James's Park without apparent consultation.
"Without attention, building works in the Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals and lack of equipment will make the transporting of patients and the cleaning of the hospital worse and even more of a challenge for hard pressed Sodexo staff," says GMB, warning it is undertaking a consultative ballot for action for cleaners, housekeepers and porters employed by Sodexo on the contract, over what it says is the company failure to deal with staff concerns over lack of basic equipment and inadequate staffing levels that could have serious implications for patient safety.
It claims that staff at the Royal Sussex County and Princess Royal Hospitals are being asked to work without basic equipment such as working wheelchairs and trolleys for porters and mops and cleaning cloths for cleaning staff. These issues were allegedly first brought to Sodexo's attention by GMB members over 12 months ago but the company has, we understand, taken no action to address these concerns.
These are is the latest problems on this contract since Sodexo took it over in December 2012 covering 700 staff who provide cleaning, catering, portering, linen and grounds maintenance at the hospitals.
Gary Palmer, GMB Regional Organiser, says: "There are constant reports on the severe stresses and strains placed on our hospitals and frontline NHS clinical staff through underfunding and under resourcing. However matters are further exacerbated if the equipment staff requested or are expected to use is unserviceable or non-existent.
"Cleaning, housekeeping and portering are in crisis on this contract. Cleaners increasingly find themselves not being issued on a daily basis with the required number of clean mops / cloths etc, necessary in preventing cross infection. Some are having to resort to either secretly hiding things away or taking equipment from each other, just so they can ensure they carry out their own individual duties.
Likewise there is a lack of fully serviceable wheelchairs, trolleys and beds. This mean that already undermanned portering teams have to spend time looking around the hospital to find a means to transport the increasing number of patients, both safely and in dignity. This shortage can often mean that equipment previously condemned and stored away awaiting repair is being pressed back into service regardless of any danger to both patient and porter whilst using it.
"Morale is at an all-time low. There are also now serious concerns for patient safety. The lack of support by both Sodexo and the Trust in resolving matters over such a long time, means that despite of the very best efforts of Sodexo staff, and they are working extremely hard, they have to be failing both the Trust and Sodexo's own acceptable service standard provision.
"Neither party seem to understand this failing will only get worse as the ongoing building works in the hospitals will make both the transporting of patients and the cleaning of the hospital even more of a challenge for hard pressed Sodexo staff. That is why GMB is pressing on with this consultative ballot for action to get these matters."
Meanwhile, GMB members employed by OCS in Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, St James's Park, The Green Park, Grosvenor Square and Brompton Cemetery in London are seeking an urgent meeting over a move by OCS from weekly to monthly pay in St James's Park without - they claim - any consultation with staff and on a number of other issues.
TUPE legislation covered staff which ensured that terms and conditions are protected when OCS won a new seven year contact last Summer covering all landscape maintenance operations. Landscape maintenance services include all horticulture work (excluding tree work); litter picking; refuse collection; road/path sweeping; cleansing; gritting; playground inspection; as well as grave digging at Brompton Cemetery. Large numbers of these members employed as parks gardeners have been in post for many years; some for more than 40 years.
Gary Carter, GMB Regional Officer, says: Members in the other parks are still not receiving their pay slips on time and there is little faith in the current monthly pay system at Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
I am seeking an urgent meeting with OCS to discuss this matter, along with the pay claim, issues on pensions and the failure to deliver a promised hamper.
"OCS wrote to staff in St James Park on 6th Feb 2015 without any meaningful consultation with staff regarding the change from weekly to monthly pay.
"The content and wording of the letter implies this change to the payroll process is already a foregone conclusion. Any major change to terms and conditions has to subject to a collective consultation process.
"However no changes can be made without full meaningful consultation and agreement. If OCS tries to bypass this requirement I will have no hesitation to approach the Regional Committee for permission to ballot members for action."
Image: St James's Park
19th February 2015