Hospital key workers win living wage after months-long campaign

PUBLISHED: 16:48 15 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:48 15 September 2020

Cleaners, porters and catering staff at hospitals including Watford have won a pay rise from the company that employs them.

Cleaners, porters and catering staff at hospitals including Watford have won a pay rise from the company that employs them.

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An NHS contractor has agreed to start paying its key workers the living wage, following complaints earlier this year.

GMB union organiser Hilda Tavolara welcomed the news, saying Mitie's staff faced the same risks as their better-paid colleagues and their work was vital to the smooth running of essential NHS services. Picture: GMB.GMB union organiser Hilda Tavolara welcomed the news, saying Mitie's staff faced the same risks as their better-paid colleagues and their work was vital to the smooth running of essential NHS services. Picture: GMB.

Mitie, which supplies cleaners, porters and catering staff to hospitals in Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead, will now pay £9.30 per hour – the living wage outside of London.

A spokesman for the company said: “We are pleased to confirm that our teams working at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust have been informed of a pay increase to the Real Living Wage.”

A GMB union rep said she believed the Herts Advertiser’s reporting had helped to secure the victory.

In June, we reported that Mitie had signed up as a “living wage champion”, yet was only paying its Herts workers £8.75 per hour.

Staff sent by contractor Mitie to hospitals like Watford will now receive the living wage - which could amount to an annual pay rise of more than £1,000.Staff sent by contractor Mitie to hospitals like Watford will now receive the living wage - which could amount to an annual pay rise of more than £1,000.

Meanwhile, extra porters hired directly by the hospital trust to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic were making £14 per hour - meaning they would earn almost £1,000 more in an average working month, for doing the same job as their Mitie colleagues.

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At the time, Mitie suggested the terms of its contract with the trust precluded it from paying the living wage, saying GMB was “well aware that pay rates cannot be changed without agreement from the client.”

Mite staff told the Advertiser that despite their intensive, physically demanding jobs, low wages meant they struggled to pay bills.

One porter said in June that he worked 42 hours per week but still had to claim Universal Credit just to cover his basic living expenses of rent, bills and food.

Another described struggling to pay rent, saying they were forced to accept money from their parents and could not afford to take their children on days out.

But, said GMB regional organiser Hilda Tavolara, Mitie has now not only agreed to pay the living wage, but also agreed that the pay rise will be backdated to November 2019, when the company became a living wage champion.

“I believe the last press made a difference and caused quite a stir,” said Hilda.

She said Mitie’s staff played “a vital role... contributing to essential hospital services, not just during the pandemic but every day, facing the same risks as their colleagues on higher pay.”

“This pay rise will help our members to feel that they are now recognised with as much dignity and respect as their NHS colleagues,” she added.


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