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"Frontline health workers vote 'yes' to strike action at sites across Lancashire," says UNISON

HEALTH workers employed by private company OCS at Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Trust have voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking strike action, says UNISON.

The 50 staff, including:- porters, caterers and cleaners, work for the healthcare facilities firm, at 8 NHS sites across Lancashire. They are asking for the same sick pay and annual holiday as staff directly employed by the NHS.

The workers are employed at Hospitals, mental health units and clinics in:- Blackburn, Blackpool, Ormskirk and Preston, and are expected to strike for 72 hours from:- Wednesday, 29 June 2022 to Friday, 1 July 2022.

Until April this year, OCS staff were paid less per hour than NHS colleagues doing the same jobs. Pressure from UNISON led to the trust and OCS agreeing last summer to match NHS pay rates. This meant a 69p increase to £10.19 an hour for the workers. But, unlike employees working directly for the NHS, OCS workers get no extra money for night, weekend or bank holiday shifts.

If OCS employees fall ill, they get only statutory sick pay of less than £100 a week. This means many are forced to keep working when unwell because they can't afford to be off, potentially putting patients at risk, says UNISON.

Colleagues employed by the NHS receive their full wages when ill. But both the employer and trust have refused to raise sick pay, annual leave or evening/weekend allowances. They also won't agree to backdate the wage increase to May 2021, which is when the workers' pay complaint was 1st lodged.

One OCS employee said:- "Many visitors and patients are not aware we work for a private firm and are living hand to mouth because of low pay. We all work for the NHS and OCS staff should not be treated differently from everyone else."

Another said:- "The Hospital couldn't function without the work done by OCS staff. Prices are soaring and everyone is struggling to pay their bills. We are key workers and should be paid fairly."

UNISON North West Regional organiser Dale Ollier said:- "OCS staff should be paid in full when poorly, receive the same as NHS colleagues for night or weekend work and be allowed to take the same amount of holiday. No one wants services to be disrupted but OCS and trust bosses have been ignoring these workers for more than a year. Employees doing similar jobs should be treated the same, regardless of who they work for. Retail, Hospitality and online distribution firms are now paying better rates to attract and keep the staff they need. OCS will struggle to hold on to its staff if it continues to treat them so shabbily. The healthcare sector is already struggling to fill vacancies. Failing to resolve this dispute will see staff vacancy rates rise and that will have an impact on patient care."

North West manufacturers call for pre-recess support package amid worsening economic outlook

NORTH West manufacturers are calling for an emergency, pre-recess package of business support measures to help shield companies from a potent cocktail of escalating costs amid a worsening economic outlook. The call comes on the back of the Make UK/BDO Q2 Manufacturing Outlook survey which shows growth and orders slowing significantly, exports nose-diving and investment almost flat as companies cut or postpone their plans in order to maintain cash flow.

According to Make UK, the seriousness of the situation and, the prospects for the next 6 months, means that industry cannot wait for the promised help in the Autumn which the Chancellor made in the Spring Statement, with action required immediately before the summer recess. In response, Make UK has made a number of recommendations for measures Government can introduce now to address rising business costs including the following:-

Waive or reduce business rates for the next 12 months.

Implement VAT deferrals for larger businesses and waive completely for SMEs.

Temporarily freeze the Climate Change Levy and, if energy costs continue to rise, remove it completely.

Review the efficacy of the business interruption loan schemes introduced during the Pandemic and deploy a successor scheme by Q3.

Extend the super deduction investment policy.

Make the increase in the Annual Investment Allowance permanent.

According to the survey while output strengthened in the last quarter to a balance of +39% and UK orders held up at +17% exports fell substantially. This picture is likely to have been affected by the fall in car exports, as well as the continued slow recovery of the aviation sector. This picture is reflected in recruitment intentions falling again compared to the last quarter while investment intentions are only just in positive territory, reflecting the national picture. Make UK has forecast growth for manufacturing in 2022 of +2.3% (down from 3% in Q1 and 3.3% in Q4 2020) and 1.7% in 2023.

Dawn Huntrod, Director for the North of Make UK, said:- "Whilst industry has recovered strongly over the last year we are clearly heading for very stormy waters in the face of eye watering costs and a difficult international environment. Clearly some of the factors impacting companies are global and cannot be contained by the UK Government alone. However, just as it is quite rightly taking measures to protect the least well off, it must take immediate measures to help shield companies from the worst impact of escalating costs and help protect jobs."

Graham Ellis, Head of Manufacturing at BDO in the North West added:- "Manufacturers across the Region have shown their ability to overcome a wave of challenges over the last couple of years to remain competitive. The question is when fatigue will overcome resilience. The tipping point where the shorter term need to retain cash outweighs investment is starting to be reached and could have significant implications for future growth. Rapidly rising input costs, ballooning energy bills and in some cases inflation busting pay settlements have hit margins and frozen investment plans. There is now a strong case for Government action to help manufacturers weather the immediate storm and incentives investment for long term growth."


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