Published: 11/07/2002, Volume II2, No.5813 Page 7

A 10 per cent pay claim has been submitted on behalf of 1,000 cleaning and portering staff working for private contractors in hospitals in five London trusts.

Unison said it was an attempt to close the so-called two-tier workforce at the hospitals based in London which emerged since services were first contracted out.

The union claims that cleaners and domestics in the NHS or who were transferred under TUPE [Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)] terms earn between£5.43 and£5.58 per hour. But for new staff employed by ISS Mediclean, figures fall to£4.10 at Whipps Cross Hospital. And for Newham General Hospital staff working for Medirest, the other private contractor at the centre of the claim, it is£4.73.

Unison is also claiming there is wide variation in conditions between the two workforces, with fewer overtime rates, less cash for rotating shift patterns and no London-weighting allowance for contracted-out staff.

The five trusts affected are Barts and the London, Whipps Cross University Hospital, Homerton University Hospital, Newham Healthcare, and East London and the City Mental Health.

Last month, HSJ reported on Homerton Hospital trust whose board admitted the justice of a£6.30 per hour pay claim demanded by its contracted staff.

Though the board said it would not be able to find the estimated£2m needed to fund the boost to pay and conditions, the board said the ISS Medicare contracts would be reviewed when they are up for renewal in 2004.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: 'We have to put a stop to this shameful practice of staff working in the same hospital, doing the same job, for the same employer but being paid different rates of pay and on worse terms and conditions.'

According to a survey by GMB union published in January, there are an estimated 75 cleaning contracts between trusts and the private sector - though two-thirds are carried out by just six companies.

An ISS Mediclean spokesperson said: 'We have been actively holding discussions with the trusts concerned and, where appropriate, we are in negotiations with trade unions concerning sick leave and other terms and conditions. . .IS always strives to provide the best possible terms and conditions within any contract.'

Medirest was unavailable for comment.