St Helier hospital have denied claims that they have "forgotten about" cleaners, caterers and porters during the coronavirus pandemic.

Staff on the "lower ranks on the frontline" said they are being treated “unfairly” as they have been taken back by the NHS but on the same terms and conditions of the private contractor.

On June 1 2021, staff re-joined Epsom and St Helier Trust as NHS employees, as their previous contract with Mitie recently came to an end after six years.

In re-joining the NHS, the Trust say they have invested in a £2 million pay uplift for these staff to ensure all staff are paid the London Living Wage, an increase on current pay for some 440 members of staff.

But some staff claim they are still not being paid the correct amount and say they've been hit with emergency tax following their transfer back to the Trust.

Staff under GMB Union claim that most of them have not received occupational sick pay and haven't been enrolled in the NHS Pension scheme, despite it being offered to bank staff and porters on the old contract.

Wimbledon Times:

But the Trust said that under TUPE (transfer of undertakings protection of employment) it is a legal requirement that staff transfer on their existing terms and conditions.

Staff went onto say they’ve been “discriminated against” and are receiving no benefits from the move.

One porter said: "During the pandemic we had the added stress of taking many bodies a day to the mortuary.

"We are so angry. We have been forgotten in this pandemic."

A research assistant said they hope that all departments support the staff affected if they decide to strike as they are "integral to the service".

"During covid we would be stuffed if it wasn't for the cleaning staff, most working two shifts with little use of English," they said.

Another porter commented: "It’s obvious to us that equality and fairness policy which management prides itself on is a smoke screen to treat staff in an appalling manner.

I find myself working from 7am to 11pm just to make ends meet.

"Meanwhile the chief executive enjoys a salary in excess of £200,000."

Wimbledon Times: St Helier Hospital St Helier Hospital

On Wednesday (June 22), staff met with GMB Union on the green opposite the hospital to discuss their concerns about the transfer.

A spokesperson from GMB Union said: "GMB Union [ have ] held multiple meetings with members who are fed up of being mistreated and who are demanding all of the contract terms and conditions enjoyed by NHS staff, including pensions and sick pay.

Their terms and conditions are far less than directly-employed NHS staff.

"To add insult to injury, they are now facing delays in overtime payments which is particularly stressful for those not on permanent contracts.

"Our members are telling us they will strike if the Trust continues to treat them in this shoddy and disgraceful manner."

In response, a spokesperson for Epsom and St Helier Trust emphasised how the trust had organised the contract transfers significantly quicker than the "normal three-month period to arrange" to ensure staff received their updated pay as soon as possible.

"We are confident that if GMB do try and orchestrate a strike then there will be little support for it," they said in a statement today (June 25).

"We have really positive relations with the other unions associated with our staff and have just jointly appointed a job-share for the new lead of our staff partnership forum."

The spokesperson added: "We said we would pay at least the London Living Wage to all the staff, resulting in a 12% pay rise to staff in their June pay packets.

"Normally this would have taken three months to arrange, as staff have to sign up to new contracts before we could pay the new rate, but we have done it on good faith without waiting for the contracts to be in place.

"The teams will receive their first, increased, pay cheque from us today. Staff are not being placed on an emergency tax code, but all being put on base rate.

"The upshot is, they will mostly all get a tax rebate on their Mitie final pay and an uplift in basic from ours, so overall the theory is they won't see a pay difference.

"Their overtime worked in June will be paid next Friday 2 July in full at the new rate.

"We have held a series of meetings with staff about how they wish overtime to be paid and have co-created with them a way forward which Unison have cited as an example of good partnership working. All of our staff are entitled to sick pay – that’s a statutory entitlement.

"Only 20 of the 440 staff have attended meetings the GMB have organised, and we are receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from the vast majority of staff.

"The health and wellbeing of all of our staff, including our cleaning, catering and portering teams (who were employed by Mitie before 1 June 2021), is extremely important to us.

"During the pandemic, staff employed by Mitie had access to all of the health and wellbeing initiatives that were in place for Trust employees."