SHADOW health secretary Jonathan Ashworth MP has called the fire and rehiring of porters at Birmingham’s Heartlands Hospital a ‘scandalous disgrace’ in a message of support to staff, says their union, Unison.
Leading politicians and union leaders including Unison general secretary Christina McAnea, assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie, shadow international development secretary Preet Gill MP, Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s West Midlands metro mayoral candidate and Hodge Hill MP, voiced their support for the workers.
The porters have been in a long-running dispute with the University Hospital Birmingham (UHB) Trust, over unilateral changes to staff rotas.
Despite widespread opposition and nearly three weeks of strikes, trust managers pushed ahead last month with their plans to sack staff who didn’t accept the new terms.
Only workers who agreed to sign contracts with inferior rights and benefits were rehired, says Unison.
Jonathan Ashworth MP said: “These fires and rehire tactics are a scandal and they should be ended right now.
“It’s simply unacceptable that in a time of such extraordinary pressures, in the biggest crisis in the history of the National Health Service, that our staff are attacked like this.”
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Hardworking, committed people are fighting for their livelihoods against a heartless trust focused on cutting costs. Staff who do the heavy lifting, literally and figuratively, and who’ve worked through the most dramatic year imaginable in our NHS deserve better.”
West Midlands metro mayoral candidate Liam Byrne MP said: “Firing and rehiring staff should be illegal. I can’t think of a better symbol of the imbalance of power that’s destroying communities and workplaces across our country.”
A University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust spokesperson said: “The collective consultation came after a year of trying to move forward.
“The Trust was clear that, if following collective consultation a decision was made to introduce the rota, individuals rejecting or silent as to whether they accept the changes would be invited to a further meeting at which dismissal and the offer of re-engagement would take place.
“The Trust cannot impose re-engagement in a changing terms process. It can only offer it and it is down to the individual whether to accept or not. Our position on this did not change. In the end, all porters accepted the changes and no dismissals or offers of re-engagement were necessary.
“We agreed with individuals 35 flexible working arrangements to address impact on family commitments, and we addressed the pay impact on the few affected by reduced enhancements by extending the pay protection period to one year and enhancing the base salary. The Trust has made significant efforts to balance the views of the workforce with the needs of our patients.”
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