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Princess Alexandra Hospital cleaners vote to strike over privatisation plans

Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow. (10183749)
Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow. (10183749)

Cleaners at Princess Alexandra Hospital – the general hospital for Bishop's Stortford – have voted to strike against plans to privatise cleaning services.

On Friday (May 10), UNISON, the UK's largest trade union, said domestic staff at the Harlow hospital voted 98.6% in favour of strike action on an 83.5% turnout.

The workers are concerned that if their services are transferred to the private sector, patients will suffer as hospitals with outsourced cleaning have higher rates of infection than those where the service is in-house. PAH currently has some of the lowest rates of infection in the country, including instances of MRSA.

They are also worried that their pay and conditions will fall below those of their NHS colleagues if their services are outsourced, as a private company would not be part of any future NHS pay awards. New starters could face worse employment terms, with a private contractor facing no obligation to pay any more than the legal minimum.

Workers will discuss their next steps, including any possible strike dates, in the coming weeks. UNISON has urged PAH to abandon its privatisation plans to avoid industrial action.

The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust employs about 2,900 whole time equivalent (WTE) staff and serves a core population of about 350,000 in West Essex and East Hertfordshire, centred on the M11 corridor and Harlow, Bishop’s Stortford and Epping.

As well as the 413-bed Harlow hospital, it operates outpatient and diagnostic services from Herts and Essex Hospital in Bishop’s Stortford, St Margaret’s Hospital in Epping and Cheshunt Community Hospital.

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