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Watch: Hospital workers show solidarity outside Russells Hall as fight to win payouts continues

A majority of the near 450 staff employed by private contractor Mitie in hospitals in Dudley were taking strike action today over their employer’s refusal to pay them a lump sum worth at least £1,655.

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.Strikers who work for Mitie at the Dudley Group of Hospitals outside Russells Hall Hospital this morning..

The noisy picket line, outside Russells Hall Hospital, saw members of UNISON join those of Unite in demanding action to be paid the money which has already been given to those employed by the NHS within Russells Hall, Guest Hospital in Dudley and Corbett Hospital in Stourbridge.

It was the first time members of UNISON had joined the strikes, which have been running since December and are planned to go through until January – around 380 of the 450 staff affected at the three hospitals were supporting the picket line, with passing motorists honking their horns in support.

Denise Stevens, aged 69 – who has become known as 'Dudley Denise' – has worked s a domestic staff member the hospital for 37 years and says she loves her job but the support workers who keep the hospital going deserve the lump sum, which was paid to NHS workers last year as part of a percentage increase and Covid bonus

She said: "It is a lot of money to most people who are struggling with rising bills and the cost of living. As well as that, most of use worked though Covid where we were frightened at times and lost many people through it including a colleague and many people were ill but we didn't stop, to keep the hospitals going. These are not so much colleagues as family which is partly why I am still working but we all deserve recognition."

Strikers outside Russells Hall Hospital this morning where over 200 people joined a picket line.

Kim Turner, who joined her fellow workers on the picket lin,e said it was great to see such a good turnout and she hoped it would spur Mitie into action.

She said: "We worked long and hard through Covid and beyond and continue to do so as some of the lowest paid workers in the trust and feel we deserve to be treated in the same way as NHS staff as the payouts would be a relatively small sum to Mitie.

Unison Branch secretary Richard Harris, who has worked as a Porter at the hospital for 16 years and said the strikes had been well supported and said they weren't all about the pay.

He said: "It is about recognition for the hard work these employees have put in during the last few years, many years of service in some cases but certainly through the testing times of Covid which is what this lump sum was meant to be for. Had it not been for the people on the picket line today the hospitals wouldn't have been open – they provided an essential and vital service.

Regional organiser for Unison Ollie Hopkins said the cost of providing the payout for some of the lowest paid workers at the hospitals in Dudley would be less than the bonus they paid their chief executive.

He said: "They have brought in workers today to cover shifts and effectively brake the strike but claim they can't afford to pay the workers on the picket line today the bonus they are owed – all we are asking for is parity, not a massive bonus.

"There was a massive mandate for strike action today though nobody wants to be here, and we are prepared to carry on until we achieve our goal, which is a fair payout for the services these workers have provided and the loyalty they have shown over the last few years.

Strikers from Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust picketed outside Russells Hall Hospital this morning..

A spokesman for Mitie said they were still awaiting a response from the government on a funding application to allow them to pay the bonus to contracted staff

She said: "We're disappointed that Unison members have voted to take industrial action, along with those of Unite, given we've kept our colleagues regularly updated that we are still awaiting a response from government on our funding application.

"As always, our priority is to ensure that our services continue to be delivered and we have strong contingencies in place to avoid any disruption to patient care."

"We’re proud of the hard work and dedication of all our colleagues up and down the UK, including those supporting the NHS. “We’re an award-winning employer, committed to offering industry leading benefits to all our colleagues.”

The strike action was expected to continue until 4pm today, with another day of action planned for next Thursday,

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