Security guards at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London will begin a six-week strike this week against ‘unfair’ maternity rights for pregnant workers.
The hospital’s security team, which is one of the world leaders in childcare, receives thousands of pounds less a year in maternity pay than internal NHS workers because they are under -dealed with a private company.
More than 30 security guards work at the hospital and all are contracted out to Carlisle Support Services, owned by Tory billionaire Lord Ashcroft.
Great Ormond Street security guards will begin the six-week strike on Tuesday to demand maternity and sick pay equal to that of internal workers, in what is expected to be one of the longest strikes in NHS history .
While internal hospital workers receive eight weeks of full maternity pay and 18 weeks of half maternity pay, security guards only receive the legal minimum – 90% of average pay for the first six weeks, then no more than £151.97 per week. .
A representative from United Voices of the World (UVW), the union representing security guards at Bloomsbury Hospital, said The Independent this equates to at least £3,000 less in maternity pay for a working woman every year.
Security guards, who are predominantly from black and ethnic minority (BME) and migrant backgrounds, seek the same maternity benefits, sick and accident pay, annual leave, overtime and pension contributions than internal workers.
A hospital spokesperson said Carlisle Security Services assured them they were “happy to discuss changes in work schedules and duties” with any staff who “find it difficult “.
In an exclusive interview, Erica Rasheed, a four-month-pregnant security guard, said The Independent it is “disgusting” and “unfair” that she receives a different maternity pay than her internal colleagues.
“Especially when we talk about the values at Great Ormond Street Hospital that we are one big family,” she added. “In my opinion, there is hypocrisy. We deserve [equal] sick pay, better hourly pay rates and adequate maternity and paternity leave.
The 27-year-old, from Lisbon in Portugal but living in London for around seven years, said she was one of two female security guards on the 31-strong team – adding that her female colleague received previously a lower maternity allowance.
Ms Rasheed, who has a five-year-old daughter, said: “It’s really unfair. We all work in the same hospital. We are front line workers. We help Covid patients.
“We are the first to help. It’s particularly crazy what happens in 2022 in a hospital like Great Ormond Street.
Ms Rasheed, who started working at the hospital last March, said staff sometimes covered NHS breaks at night, even though it was technically not part of their job.
She added: ‘When a child is in surgery and needs blood, we cover the break from the person who sends the order to the blood carrier via the computer.
“It can be stressful. It examines a child’s details and blood type. If you take too long to send the details to the bearer, the child’s life could be in danger.
Ms Rasheed said her role as security guard also included monitoring the number of patients entering the building, but explained her employer carried out a risk assessment last month which concluded she no longer had to stand outside the hospital because she was pregnant.
UVW says Carlisle Support Services achieved revenue of £65m and a profit of £6m in 2019 and condemned the fact that outsourced workers were excluded from the 3% pay rise that the NHS staff received last year for their hard work during the pandemic.
Samuel Awittor, security officer at the hospital, said: “We ask ourselves, are we less human than others? We start to wonder why we should be working in the same environment and why there is this two-tier system where others get different benefits when we do the same or more.”
While Peter Akintoye, another keeper, said: “We would have liked not to have to kick, but they left us no choice.
Security guards at Children’s Hospital have been urging the hospital to make them in-house staff for months, but were recently told that was not planned to happen at this time.
Petros Elia, general secretary of the UVW, said: “It is outrageous that these workers are the only hospital workers who do not receive their full sick pay. [for non-Covid related sicknesses] during a global pandemic, when they are on the front line, keeping patients and staff safe.
“Security officers have consistently shown they will go above and beyond when needed, now is the time for bosses to give these workers the contracts they deserve.”
Ms Rasheed, the pregnant security guard, said guards were working 12-hour shifts as she explained roles had changed following the Covid crisis, with staff now forced to stand in front of the entrance to the hospital in all weathers.
She said: “We control the number of people coming in and out. You deal with aggressive parents. They think, “She’s a woman, what can she do to me?” They yell, they swear and totally ignore me when I say only one parent is allowed in. Due to Covid it is one parent per child.
“A 12-hour shift in a standing position is very painful for the back, feet and legs. You feel pain all over. It can be very tiring if you are pregnant. Along with nausea, vomiting and back pain, it can be very painful.”
A Great Ormond Street Hospital spokesperson said: ‘Like many hospitals, we purchase security services from a specialist supplier to meet regulatory requirements and provide staff, patients and families with a professional service. and resilient.
“We signed a three-year contract with Carlisle Security Services in August 2021. Carlisle Security assures us that they are happy to discuss changes in working hours and tasks with any team member who finds it difficult .
“We have seen on social media that industrial action is planned at GOSH this week and we will do everything we can to minimize disruption to the children, young people and families who depend on our hospital.”
Carlisle Support Services has been contacted for comment.