UNISON is today (Wednesday) issuing ballot papers to staff at Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board hospitals working in the sterilisation and disinfection units and the x-ray department. Hospital workers are infuriated their claim for pay parity with colleagues doing the same job in other hospitals in Wales has not been taken seriously by the Health Board. The ballot involves staff at Morriston, Singleton, Neath Port Talbot and Princess of Wales hospitals and the trade union is confident members will vote in favour of industrial action.
Operating theatres, wards and clinics could not function without the work of assistant technical officers (ATOs) in the hospital sterilisation and disinfection units. They are skilled professionals decontaminating hospitals and surgical instruments to a very high standard. In most of Wales, these staff are employed on Band 3. At ABMU by contrast, ATOs work to an out-of-date job description and inferior rates of pay on Band 2. Across a year, UNISON has said ABMU staff are worse off by between £466 and £1,879 depending on their length of service in the post.
Since March 2014, UNISON has repeatedly put the case for pay parity to managers including through official grievance hearings. Exasperation at the lack of progress has turned to anger at the stalling tactics of the health board. It accepted the job description required revision ten months ago but has failed to honour this commitment.
Mark Turner, UNISON organiser for ABMU said,
“Simple justice says two healthcare workers in the Wales NHS, with the same role, responsibilities and experience, should be paid the same rate for the job. Imagine how you would feel if you were in the same position. Imagine if for two and a half years, with all the evidence on your side, you’d taken every opportunity to progress the argument for pay parity with senior managers. You would be livid that the health board isn’t listening. Staff are so angry they are likely to vote for strike action. They cannot understand why their health board values their work less than peers doing exactly the same job elsewhere in Wales. There is no reason they should be paid a lower rate. The job description used at ABMU is hopelessly outdated and doesn’t reflect the expertise and competence required for the job.
“The sterilisation and disinfection unit might be ‘behind the scenes’ work but it is essential to the effective running of the hospital and these staff are very much public service champions. The board must properly recognise the important work undertaken by assistant technical officers.”
Staff in the x-ray department are similarly affected by a dispute over their pay banding. UNISON has reiterated its willingness to return to negotiations.