NHS Tayside may have spent as much as £100,000 launching a failed court bid to end the porters’ strike which has now entered its fourth week.
The Unite union has slammed directors for wasting public funds after their attempt to break the strike of 120 porters was kicked out of the Court of
Session on Friday.
Porters at Ninewells and Royal Victoria hospitals in Dundee took part in a 24-hour strike on Friday.
They also held a rally and members met Health Secretary and Dundee East MSP Shona Robison.
They claim that since 2004 they have been paid incorrectly and have received less than other porters working for NHS Tayside.
Unite senior industrial officer Colin Coupar said: “It beggars belief that NHS Tayside’s directors could have wasted as much as £100,000 to try and crush our members’ fair pay campaign.
“For the same amount they could have employed another six porters for one year or put the money into any number of patient services struggling under the austerity agenda.
“And while Unite was meeting the Health Minister in an effort to resolve this dispute, NHS Tayside tried to exploit the UK’s abject trade union and employment laws, which rank among the weakest in Europe, to dodge a mess of their own making.”
He added: “It’s shocking. Legislation is supposed to protect workers’ rights, not take them away.”
Workers’ representatives claim NHS Tayside has been uncommunicative and say the union is seeking an end to the dispute.
Dundee West MP Jim McGovern backs the striking porters.
He said: “I attended a rally along with Unite in a show of solidarity with the porters of Ninewells Hospital who are taking industrial action over a pay issue.
“The work of porters is extremely important and as hospitals would simply be unable to cope without them for any considerable period of time, it is therefore vital that they are treated and paid fairly for the work that they do.
“I am disappointed that it has reached the point where industrial action is necessary, but I hope that NHS Tayside will seek to reach an agreement so that porters get paid fairly and hospitals can get their porters back as soon as possible.
“What kind of message does it send out to NHS staff across Scotland and to the general public when one of the country’s main health boards goes to such cost and length to suppress the rights of its lowest paid?
“After today’s shameful efforts, now, more than ever, NHS Tayside directors should get back around the table with these workers and put this issue to bed once and for all.”
NHS Tayside had gone to the Court of Session, alleging that as they were unsure of which workers were striking, the strike was not conducted properly and could be stopped.
Porters claim their strike action has had little impact on patients.
John Borland, Unite branch secretary for Ninewells, said there had been support from the public and from patients for the strike.
He said: “We heard the story of a patient who was scheduled for an x-ray, and refused to go, and that he had said ‘I want a porter to take me’.”
NHS Tayside human resources director George Doherty said: “Unfortunately, despite a number of attempts by us with Acas to move discussions forward, Unite have refused to reconsider their demand for significant backdating of pay for a role it has been demonstrated that the portering Band 1 staff did not undertake.
“It is incorrect to state that NHS Tayside has not provided evidence of trade union agreement to the Agenda for Change grading process.
“Unite has been provided with clear documentary evidence, including minutes of meetings, that decisions taken at all stages of the process used to determine the grades of these staff were subject to full discussion and involvement of the senior trade union representatives identified to act on behalf of our collective unions.”