FURIOUS health workers at the Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham voted to take industrial action over pay yesterday.
Public-sector union UNISON said that hundreds of contract cleaners and porters will either operate on a work-to-rule basis or walk out if bosses do not make them a "substantial offer."
About 300 UNISON members are very unhappy that staff who are employed in-house to do the same job at its sister hospital in Solihull receive better hourly rates, as well as benefits such as pension rights and sick pay.
Contract cleaners at Heartlands currently earn Â£4.85 an hour. A porter's hourly rate is Â£4.95, without entitlement to sick pay, pension provision and other benefits.
But cleaners and porters employed directly by the Birmingham Heartlands and Solihull NHS Trust at Solihull Hospital earn nearly Â£1 an hour more, with entitlements.
UNISON West Midlands regional organiser Ray Salmon noted that 96.8 per cent of union members at Heartlands would be prepared to either work to rule, refuse to work overtime or refuse to cover for absent staff.
And a total of 96.3 per cent said that they would be prepared to walk out completely, probably in the form of one-day strikes.
"We had quite a good turnout of 80 per cent, but the 96 per cent has surpassed our expectations. We have got a clear mandate for industrial action," said Mr Salmon.
"If we don't have an offer on the table for the pay claim, it's highly likely we'll have industrial action throughout November.
"There have been discussions with the employers' side and a lot of debate about the conditions. They have given us a commitment that they will put something to us on Thursday.
"The problem is that it has got to be a substantial offer to prevent strike action, because the members are fed up. They have had enough and want to be paid what they are owed," he insisted.
Mr Salmon added: "If our members take industrial action, this is going to seriously disrupt one of the biggest acute trusts in the region. That's going to have an impact, not just on Heartlands but other hospitals in the region."
UNISON representatives will now meet bosses from the workers' employers, Initial Hospital Services, on Thursday to see if they will agree to their terms for increased pay.
The outcome will then be relayed to members at a separate meeting on Thursday evening and a decision will be taken about striking.
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