Security staff at Southampton General Hospital to strike for eight days in a dispute over lack of protective equipment

Exit of a general hospital.

Security staff at Southampton General Hospital, who are being attacked in the A&E department, will strike for eight days in their dispute over pay rates, sick pay, and safety concerns.

The plight of the 21 security staff, who are being attacked on a regular basis by members of the public either under the influence of drink or drugs or with mental health problems, has attracted national media attention.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said that its security staff members would strike for eight days in April, May, and June, as well as starting an overtime ban on 5 April.

Unite said that neither the employer Mitie Security Ltd nor the bosses at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust had made any effort to resolve the dispute since the lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as stab vests and safety restraints, was revealed earlier this month.

The security staff voted unanimously for strike action and industrial action short of a strike, and will now strike for 24 hours on 5 April, 19 April, and 24 May. There will also be a 48-hour stoppage starting on 3 May and a further 72-hour strike on 7 June. All the strikes will start at midnight.

Unite lead officer for health in the south east, Scott Kemp said: “Since the attacks on our members received national media coverage, it has been very disappointing, to say the least, that there has been no approach from either the trust management or Mitie to try and resolve the issue.

“Talks are scheduled for 26 March, under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas, however, the security guards are still being left open to attack and injury in the meantime.

“The lack of urgency on Mitie’s part to resolve these personal protection issues at the Tremona Road site is a disgrace – that’s why our members voted unanimously for eight days of strike action.

“Our members are at the forefront of providing security and a safe environment for staff, patients and visitors - that’s why Mitie’s management needs to get around the table and negotiate constructively.

“At present, if the security staff are injured at work, and if the resulting investigation finds in their favour, they get two weeks’ full pay and then two weeks’ half-pay. After that, it is the statutory minimum. What we want is enhanced sickness payments for those off work due to being injured protecting patients and hospital staff; proper and transparent investigations into all attacks; and our members having the necessary personal protection equipment. Our members are seeking six months’ full-pay, followed by six months’ half-pay for all sickness absences.”

Unite said that the demand for an increase in pay from the current £8.64 an hour reflected the continuing stress of the job. The security staff are seeking £10.50 for security officers and £12.16 for supervisors, with additional payments of 50p per hour on night rates; £1 an hour on Saturday and double time on Sunday.

The link to the petition supporting the security staff can be found here.