Morale at NHS trust ‘the lowest’ over controversial parking changes

Morale at an NHS trust is reportedly “the lowest” staff have seen it amid a dispute over controversial changes to car park charges.

Staff at Arrowe Park Hospital and the wider Wirral University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (WUTH) previously had charges for using trust car parks automatically taken out of their wages.

However, due to recent changes in the minimum wage, this has been stopped by the trust for Band 2 workers, the lowest-paid band.

This is because automatically taking the charge out of wages would see workers paid below the minimum wage. Staff on Band 2 are being told they still have to pay for the charges, just either by cash or bank transfer.

A letter from the trust to workers said this was “to ensure that staff car parking charges do not impact the income of our staff who are subject to this wage standard”.

Unite the Union in a letter to the trust said it was “abhorrent and disgusting” and the trust “is trying to hide the fact it is paying staff below the minimum wage”.

WUTH has seen significant strike action in recent years regarding disputes over pay. According to Martin McDowell from NHS Cheshire and Merseyside at a recent Wirral Place Based Partnership Board meeting, the trust’s £5.2m deficit was largely due to industrial action.

In the union letter, Derek Jones, a regional officer for Unite, said Band 2 staff were only being paid 1p more than the minimum wage, adding, “This situation is causing our members distress and they are struggling to keep up with their rents and mortgages, utilities bills, and generally sustaining their family’s needs.”

Mr Jones said the issues, which he said had also been reported at other trusts in the region, had in some cases “forced staff to take out interest free loans”.

He called for payments for parking to be suspended for Band 2 staff until a nationally agreed pay deal is secured.

One worker who wished to stay anonymous said she regularly had to do work that was above her pay band, adding, “The NHS years ago used to be the place to be. I have been in the trust for many years.

“It’s a kick in the teeth to be honest with you. We have kids. We have got to get our kids to school and we haven’t got the luxury of using public transport. It’s very underhanded and very very sly.”

She said, “The trust is awful at the moment. Our morale is very low. The morale is the lowest I have seen it in all the years I have been here. During Covid, we were being sent here, there and everywhere like lambs to the slaughter.

“Everyone got COVID and we had to work all through that and tried to put a smile on your face. We thought Covid was the worst but now it’s worse.

“We didn’t get a pay rise in April and now they just want to take, take, take. That is how we feel, just very undervalued.”

Another worker who spoke to the LDRS, said, “We could get better pay in the Card Factory. Some of our colleagues have children working in McDonald’s earning more money.”

Cllr Julie McManus, who is a board member of the trust, said, “I have raised the issue of parking charges for staff at previous board meetings and will continue to do so at future meetings.

“In the meantime, I will write to the CEO and chair of WUTH, Janelle Holmes, and Sir David Henshaw, to raise these issues and ask for a response,” including “what mitigation they will be putting place to help the lowest paid, yet arguably the most crucial frontline workers.”

A Wirral University Teaching Hospital spokesperson said, “Unfortunately, this is a national issue as the recent increase in the National Minimum Wage has been announced ahead of the nationally set NHS pay awards. This has created issues for some of our staff.”

“The law does not allow our payroll providers to make deductions from staff pay where this results in staff salary falling below the level of the new Minimum wage.

“We confirm that all affected staff have been contacted and reassured that they will continue to be able to access parking. These staff currently pay our lowest car parking rate which is between £5.64 & £12.80 per month (salary dependant) which is £1.30 & £2.95 per week respectively. Whilst payment cannot be made through payroll, other options have been made available.

“We remain committed to fairness for all of our staff and compliance with legal standards and will continue to review the situation in light of the NHS national pay award announcement expected later this year.”

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