Health workers across Lancashire, including in Blackburn, have voted to strike.

The workers, employed by private company OCS at Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Trust, voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking three days of industrial action, UNISON has said today.

The 50 staff, including porters, caterers and cleaners, work for the healthcare facilities firm at eight NHS sites across Lancashire, after 92.3 per cent of workers voted to go on strike.

They are asking for the same sick pay and annual holiday as staff directly employed by the NHS.

The workers are employed at hospitals, mental health units and clinics in Blackburn, Blackpool, Ormskirk and Preston and are expected to strike for 72 hours from Wednesday June 29 to Friday July 1.

The full list of Lancashire sites which will be affected by the UNISON NHS strike is: 


  • Daisyfield Mill Clinic, Royal Blackburn Hospital
  • Mount Clinic, Accrington
  • Balladen House, Rossendale
  • Harbour and Wesham Rehabilitation Units, Blackpool
  • Guild Park Hospital, Preston
  • Ormskirk and District General Hospital

Until April this year, OCS staff were paid less per hour than NHS colleagues doing the same jobs.

Pressure from UNISON led to the trust and OCS agreeing last summer to match NHS pay rates. This meant a 69p increase to £10.19 an hour for the workers.

But, unlike employees working directly for the NHS, OCS workers get no extra money for night, weekend or bank holiday shifts.

If OCS employees fall ill, they get only statutory sick pay of less than £100 a week.

This means many are forced to keep working when unwell because they can’t afford to be off, potentially putting patients at risk, says UNISON.

Colleagues employed by the NHS receive their full wages when ill. But both the employer and trust have refused to raise sick pay, annual leave or evening/weekend allowances.

They also won’t agree to backdate the wage increase to May 2021, which is when the workers’ pay complaint was first lodged.

One OCS employee said: “Many visitors and patients are not aware we work for a private firm and are living hand to mouth because of low pay.

"We all work for the NHS and OCS staff should not be treated differently from everyone else.”

Another said: “The hospital couldn’t function without the work done by OCS staff. Prices are soaring and everyone is struggling to pay their bills. We are key workers and should be paid fairly.”

UNISON North West regional organiser Dale Ollier said: “OCS staff should be paid in full when poorly, receive the same as NHS colleagues for night or weekend work and be allowed to take the same amount of holiday.

“No one wants services to be disrupted but OCS and trust bosses have been ignoring these workers for more than a year. Employees doing similar jobs should be treated the same, regardless of who they work for.

“Retail, hospitality and online distribution firms are now paying better rates to attract and keep the staff they need. OCS will struggle to hold on to its staff if it continues to treat them so shabbily.

“The healthcare sector is already struggling to fill vacancies. Failing to resolve this dispute will see staff vacancy rates rise and that will have an impact on patient care.”

A spokesperson for Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust saud: “We have been assured by OCS Group UK Limited that business continuity plans will be in place to ensure that the delivery of the Trust’s critical and important mental health services across our sites is not affected.”