Staff at Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust could be balloted on industrial action in a row over pay cuts.

Medirest, which has recently won a new five year contract for cleaning and catering at Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie hospitals, wants to save £300,000 on its annual wages bill, according to Unison.

It is proposing to scrap paid tea breaks for its 600 staff and wants to move forward evening cleaning shifts from 6pm to 5pm - which will reduce workers’ entitlement to unsocial hours premiums.

Unison regional organiser Phil Gooden said that would affect 45 workers, many of whom wanted the later start because they had family or educational commitments. By starting at 5pm, they would lose the right to unsocial hours payments on the whole of their six-hour shift and would only be paid at enhanced rates for three of those hours.

This meant they would be paid for seven and a half hours a day, rather than nine, and would lose around £60 a week. ”It is unrealistic to expect these cleaners to take a £3,000 a year pay cut when they are probably only earning £12,000 to £13,000,” he said. Staff had been told if they did not accept the changes, they could be made redundant, he added.

Unison is now planning to consult members on whether they would be prepared to take any form of industrial action - and could then ballot on this.  

Medirest said: ”As part of our ongoing partnership with the trust, we are committed to maintaining high levels of safety and quality at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. We also understand that like all NHS trusts, they are required to increase efficiencies and this consultation forms part of our ongoing commitment to help them achieve this.

“We are working closely with all of our colleagues, the trust and the unions to enable us to maintain the excellent standard of our service provision while retaining, wherever possible, our current employees at Addenbrooke’s.”

A trust spokesman said: “The criteria that we set out in the contract, which was via an open and transparent procurement process, will ensure we maintain the same high standards of cleanliness and hygiene.”