SECURITY staff at Royal Blackburn Hospital and Burnley General Hospital have voted to strike in protest at low pay.

The security guards are currently employed by private contractor Engie Services Ltd, within East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, and say that in some cases they are paid as little as £8.72 an hour, with under-25s earning even less.

The staff say that they could be losing out by as much as £6,000 a year compared to colleagues directly employed by the NHS, despite the tough conditions they are expected to face.

A former hospital worker said: “I used to work at the hospitals on the wards, I have seen the hard work they do.

“They support medical staff when in crisis with patients that are being aggressive.

“They play a vital role within the organisation and their pay should reflect this.”

In response the workers first submitted a pay claim in October last year before launching a petition which called on Engie to pay NHS rates.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Engie staff have called on the company to pay them NHS rates

However, with no offer forthcoming from the company they have now voted unanimously to strike, with many of their NHS colleagues saying they support the security guards’ aims.

An NHS worker who did not wish to be named said: “As an NHS junior doctor, security staff are part of our team and often help us out of escalating or tough situations.

“It is disgraceful that these NHS heroes get less than NHS rates, terms and conditions.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

Security guards have voted to strike at both Burnley General Hospital and Royal Blackburn

Public sector union UNISON meanwhile says that it hopes strikes can still be averted if Engie comes to an agreement with its employees.

UNISON North West regional organiser Rebecca Lumberg said: “This dedicated group of security workers put themselves in danger every day to protect patients and staff.

“They have been on the front-line throughout the pandemic despite Office for National Statistics figures showing as a profession, security guards have the highest risk of dying as a result of Covid-19.

“This ballot for strike action was originally postponed because of the ongoing public health crisis but this group of workers felt forced to vote for strike action given UNISON’s experience of an employer who, in other locations has stubbornly refused to deal with this issue appropriately.

She added: “We hope that Engie do the right thing before Lancashire hospital security staff are forced to take strike action.”

Engie meanwhile, has said that it still hopes to find a resolution to the dispute before strikes come into effect.

A spokesperson said: “We have had several productive meetings with the Trust and Unison to investigate this issue and it is a high priority for all involved. 

"The dialogue remains open and a further meeting is scheduled for later this month, where we hope to progress with finding a resolution.”

Security guards taking action have yet to announce strike dates.