More than 200 hospital cleaners, porters and cooks have started a 48-hour strike in a dispute over pay and working conditions.
The strike by Sodexo workers at the North Devon District Hospital was triggered by the hospital’s refusal to enact a national agreement ensuring terms and conditions for staff, including sick pay, overtime rates and weekend working rates.
The national agreement was signed in 2005, with staff entitled to the new conditions from 1 October 2006.
The trust offered to implement the new conditions from 1 April 2010, but this has been rejected by the union Unison, which has called for immediate implementation.
Unison regional organiser, Helen Eccles, said: “The clock started ticking when the funds were provided to implement this agreement. From October 2006, Unison has consistently asked the trust and Sodexo to engage with Unison on a tripartite basis in line with the national agreement.
“The trust has had over three years to apply this agreement, and is still telling staff that they must wait.”
North Devon Healthcare Trust chief executive Jac Kelly, said: “We’ve gone further today, with a target date of 1 April for full implementation of pay and conditions in line with NHS staff. We were prepared to recommend that to our board, which has the final say.
“It’s very disappointing that this has been rejected and that we are faced with strike action when another meeting had already been agreed, and with Acas involved.”