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By Matthew Cozier on 14.3.2024

Strike Action at Kent’s Hospitals?

A trade union has announced that hospital staff employed by The East Kent Hospitals could go on strike over rates of pay.

GMB says that it will ballot its 650 members to decide on possible strike action if the trust fails to meet their demands. It claims that hospital staff are paid less than the nationally agreed rate and that its members are paid more than £1 an hour less than they should be. The union represents the Trust’s porters, caterers, cleaners and other non medical but essential staff in Kent and Canterbury Hospital in Canterbury, at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford and at Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.

Union representative, Frank Macklin, said that the morale of the staff had been at an all time low since the union sought unsuccessfully to convince the trust to raise wages to the nationally agreed rate. The Union says it has made every effort to negotiate pay with the Trust and its main contractor, Medirest, but the talks stagnated and they have been “up against a brick wall” ever since.

The nationally agreed rate of pay for staff was changed four years ago and the trust is yet to raise staff wages to match. The result of the ballot and the decision on whether or not to strike are expected in two weeks however the GMB representative maintained that the union did not “take this kind of action lightly” and that it “will continue to engage in negotiations to see if a strike can be averted.”

The threat of strike action comes just weeks after a similar situation arose in Dartford’s Darent Valley Hospital over rates of pay for staff working unsocial hours. The East Kent Hospitals Trust have said that every effort will be made to ensure that patients will not suffer should the strike action go ahead, but are yet to make any further comment on the matter. Its main contractor Medirest said that it would continue talks with both parties in the hope of reaching a conclusion.

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