UNISON has today (Tuesday) announced that staff at Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board hospitals working in the sterilisation and disinfection units will take strike action on Wednesday 25 January and Wednesday 1 February 2017. Non-emergency surgery is likely to be severely disrupted.
96 per cent of participating staff in the hospital sterilisation and disinfection units at Morriston, Neath Port Talbot and Princess of Wales hospitals voted in favour of industrial action. They 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.
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 At ABMU by contrast, ATOs work to an out-of-date job description and inferior rates of pay on Band 2.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.
A parallel pay dispute with the x-ray departments has been resolved.
Mark Turner, UNISON organiser for ABMU said,
“Hospital sterilisation staff don’t feel the health board is listening to them or properly understands the work they undertake. They are highly skilled technicians of many years training yet are treated as though they have just walked in off the street. They are extremely disappointed that after two years of discussions the health board continues to ignore their very reasonable claim in the hope they will go away. These healthcare workers just want to be paid what they deserve.
“With negotiation we have been able to resolve a similar dispute in the x-ray departments which shows agreement is possible if the health board is willing. Rather than search for a compromise however, senior managers seem more interested in antagonising these workers. Our plea to the board is: recognise the anger you have created and pay the appropriate rate for the job so that strike action can be avoided.”