UNISON has today announced that staff at Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board hospitals working in the sterilisation and disinfection units and the x-ray departments have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action. Hospital workers at Morriston, Singleton, Neath Port Talbot and Princess of Wales hospitals 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. 96 per cent of participating staff in the hospital sterilisation and disinfection units voted in favour of industrial action and the trade union has said that a strike would seriously disrupt non-emergency surgery. 100 per cent of participating staff in the x-ray department voted 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. Elsewhere in 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 At ABMU by contrast, ATOs work to an out-of-date job description and inferior rates of pay on Band 2.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.
UNISON has described the result as an indictment on the health board’s failure to tackle historic anomalies in their pay structure. Since March 2014, the trade union 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,
“Staff at the hospitals are so angry because they are being treated as second-class citizens. They cannot understand why their health board values their work less than peers doing exactly the same job with the same responsibilities elsewhere in Wales. There is no reason they should be paid a lower rate. People are losing out on hundreds and hundreds of pounds every year, in some cases they are being underpaid by nearly £2,000 a year. This is money that should be theirs by right. Assistant technical officers are essential to the running of the hospital and they must be paid the rate for the job.
“The onus now is on the health board to make an improved offer. They have seen the intensity of workplace anger and we want them to work with us to avoid industrial action.”
Staff in the x-ray department are similarly affected by a dispute over their pay banding.