Staff employed by private companies on contracts for the NHS should receive a pay increase in line with the 3% pay award their NHS colleagues in England will receive.
Unison has written to the 19 largest organisations that hold NHS contracts for services including cleaning, catering and security, asking them to match NHS pay rates for those working alongside people directly employed by the health service.
The organisations it has written to include Serco, Sodexo, Capita, Mitie and ISS, among others.
The union’s letter says staff including cleaners, porters, catering assistants, security guards and health workers who work for private companies have no clarity about what is going to happen to their pay and are worried about getting nothing while their colleagues on NHS “Agenda for Change” contracts receive a 3% pay uplift.
General secretary Christina McAnea said: “Thousands of cleaners, porters and caterers have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, alongside their NHS colleagues.
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“NHS staff have the benefit of a national pay system but those not directly employed are missing out, often because of complex contracting arrangements, penny-pinching practices and the hard-nosed pursuit of profit.
“Staff in the NHS work on one site as one team, from maintaining clean and safe wards to ensuring patients are fed and cared for. No one delivering NHS services should be paid less than their directly employed colleagues.
”A pay rise should apply to all NHS staff. Health workers employed by contractors must not be left behind. The public will expect everyone in the NHS to get the pay rise they’ve all more than earned.”
The union also called for firms to pay at least the “real” living wage rate of £9.50 an hour, or £10.85 in London, as has been recommended by the Living Wage Foundation.
It urged NHS trusts to award contracts only to private firms that agreed to match NHS pay rates and other benefits such as sick pay and pensions.
Last month the government announced that all NHS staff employed on “Agenda for Change” contracts would receive a 3% pay rise backdated to April.
However, many health unions including the British Medical Association have condemned the offer as they believe it will leave some medical professionals whose pay is covered by previously agreed pay deals worse off than their colleagues.
Both the BMA and Unison have begun consultations with their members on how they want to respond to the 3% award.
The pay rise will mean the average nurse receives an additional £1,000 a year, while many porters and cleaners will receive around £540.
NHS England has just appointed its first female chief executive, Amanda Pritchard.