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Strikes spread to more trusts over backpay dispute

Published on: 28 Feb 2024

Strike action by healthcare assistants looks set to spread to more trusts, having so far been confined to the North West region.

HCAs at Bedfordshire Hospitals Foundation Trust have announced strikes to take place next month over a dispute around backpay for performing clinical duties.

It follows an announcement earlier this month that Unison members at North Tees and Hartlepool FT and South Tees Hospital FT had voted for strike action.

The dispute centres on how to reward band two staff who have routinely been performing clinical duties above their pay grade.

Unison says they have been performing clinical tasks usually done by band three staff, including taking blood and inserting cannulas.

The union has been carrying out a national campaign for these staff to be regraded to higher salaries and given backpay. It has reached more than a dozen agreements with trusts across the country, including in Newcastle, Bristol, Leeds and Manchester, without any industrial action.

Strikes over the issue have so far been concentrated in the North West, where two trusts have seen walkouts.

Wirral University Teaching Hospitals has faced more than 50 strike days. The trust has now agreed to offer backpay to 2018, but has yet to agree a process for determining eligibility.

Warrington and Halton Hospitals has seen fewer strike days and has now agreed to an eligibility process as well as the 2018 backstop.

More than 400 workers have now voted to walk out for 48 hours at Bedford Hospital and Luton and Dunstable Hospitals from 11 March, according to Unison.

The union said the trust had failed to clarify which staff would be regraded and agree to its demand for backpay to 2018.

A trust spokesman said it supported the rebanding of applicable staff and had offered backpay to July 2021.

He said they remained in active discussions with the union and committed to bringing the matter to a conclusion as soon as possible.

A joint statement from the two Teesside trusts said they had also committed to back pay to 2021, saying this was when the national job profile for clinical support workers changed.

Rebanding disputes are the responsibility of local employers and unions, but HSJ asked NHS Employers whether there was scope for an indicative national agreement on the issue, to save trusts having to negotiate separately. It said it could not comment.