Contract staff at South London and Maudsley NHS Trust are being asked to consider industrial action in a dispute over disparities in their terms and conditions.
Supervisors, who are employed by contractor Aramark, are on less favourable terms and conditions than the cleaners, catering staff and domestic staff they manage, resulting in less sick pay, annual leave and weekend pay, according to the Unite union, which has launched a consultative ballot on industrial action.
A Unite campaign successfully secured NHS terms and conditions for domestic ward and catering staff, also employed by the contractor, a year ago. However, supervisors remain on inferior conditions after nearly a year of further negotiations, the union says.
Richard Munn, Unite regional officer, said: "The contractors are exploiting their employees by expecting them to oversee staff, who at weekends are actually earning more money than them. Our members rightly expect a better remuneration package when they take on more responsibility. I am sure that such unfairness does not happen further up the management structure within Aramark."
The consultative ballot closes on 1 November and, if there has been no resolution from the company by this point, then the union will begin an industrial action formal ballot, Munn added.
Employees on NHS terms and conditions receive a minimum of 27 days' annual leave, enhancements at weekends and bank holidays and a sick pay scheme aligned to length of service, among other terms. Supervisors get 21 days' leave, no enhancement at weekends and "minimal" sick pay, according to Unite.
Andrew Main, chief executive of Aramark, said: "All supervisors that have been referred to in this instance were ‘inherited staff' who transferred to us on the terms and conditions of a previous employment contract (under TUPE) and it is this that has been called into question.
"We fully understand the situation and the issue as it has been raised to us. This is why we have taken action and are currently working together with Unite to resolve any issues and to reach an appropriate conclusion for all involved."
By Daniel Thomas
E-mail your comments to Caterer News here.
If you have something to say on this story or anything else join the debate at Table Talk - Caterer's new networking forum. Go to www.caterersearch.com/tabletalk
Looking for a new job? Find your next job here with Caterersearch.com jobs