Extra time for hospital dispute talks

Pontefract General Infirmary / Pontefract Hospital
Pontefract General Infirmary / Pontefract Hospital

Hospital bosses and unions representatives have agreed extra time to find a solution to an ongoing dispute over proposed pay cuts.

Unison members have held several days of strike action – including a five-day walk-out two weeks ago – over plans to downgrade admin and clerical staff bands by up to £2,800 a year as Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Pontefract, Pinderfields and Dewsbury hospitals, tries to save £500,000 from its departmental budget.

The trust has issued dismissal and re-engagement letters to affected staff asking them to sign up for the pay cuts or cease working for the trust. It has now extended the deadline for staff to respond to Thursday February 28, to allow managers and unions to work together on new proposals.

Union leaders have proposed staff working reduced hours on their current pay grade to make the savings, which would mean an average reduction of 4.5 hours a week for a full-time member of staff, which they say could be achieved by working more efficiently.

Graham Briggs, director of human resources, said: “We have remained committed to finding a mutually acceptable resolution and – in addition to the offers of pay protection – we have always been willing to work with the staff side to explore alternative ways of delivering savings.

“We look forward to working together further with union colleagues with the aim of mutually resolving this dispute.”

The trust needs to make annual savings of £24m to meet government-set targets, and in addition faces a further £24m deficit at the end of this financial year.

A formal negotiation meeting will take place on Monday February 25, where it has been agreed unions will provide the trust with full feedback on ideas for improving productivity and efficiency.

If a resolution can be agreed upon, the trust will offer staff protection of their loss of earnings due to reduced hours, which would be paid as a lump sum up front of between 18 and 24 months, dependent on grade.

Unions have agreed to refrain from giving any notice of further industrial action, working to contract or issuing ballot papers on an escalation of the dispute between now and February 28.