Union in talks with staff over Derriford Hospital hours row
UNION representatives are holding a series of talks with Derriford Hospital cleaning and catering staff over a working hours row.
The GMB is meeting with workers ahead of discussions with services firm Serco on Friday . Union representatives say members are unhappy with "restructuring" which has changed rosters and slashed the hours worked by staff employed at the hospital by Serco.
The GMB has warned the hospital could be pitched into "chaos" if hundreds of cleaning and catering staff decide to strike, as reported in The Herald last week. After the union complained of a lack of communication from Serco, the company contacted representatives with a view to negotiating. Now a meeting is due to take place on Friday.
The GMB met with members last week, and plans to hold further talks in coming days, to gauge opinion.
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Ray Stewart, GMB steward at Derriford Hospital, said: "A lot of information is being fed back from members of staff about changes that have been forced through in the last nine months. There is a fear among staff about making a big issue out of something. We are talking about a lot of staff going through a major change. Some are losing half of their annual income as a result of rota changes. We are hoping to re-establish effective dialogue with Serco on site."
He added the union will make all efforts to resolve the dispute before considering strike action.
GMB has about 200 members working for Serco at the hospital, the largest union membership.
Unison and Unite have members working for Serco too, but it is GMB members who are unhappy with the "restructuring".
Serco took on a £140million, 10-year contract to provide helpdesk, ward housekeeping, patient and staff catering, portering and cleaning in September 2009.
A Serco spokesman has said the firm has "sought to maintain a productive and mutually respectful relationship with our staff".
He said this included routine and regular liaison with Unite, Unison and GMB, whose members constitute about a third of the workforce.
All proposed changes to working practices are subject to consultation, he added.
The spokesman said discussions on the introduction of new rostering arrangements have been "amicable and constructive", and are continuing.
But he said in "a very small number of cases" individuals have raised concerns, but "we have worked with the trade unions to address these".