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NHS Covid-19 heroes now face the sack, Unite warns

Union says outsourcer is planning to axe about 100 workers as the crisis peak has passed

ABOUT one hundred NHS workers, hailed as heroes by the Tories at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, are now facing the sack in an appalling betrayal revealed on Tuesday.

Unite the union said that profit-driven outsourcing company Elior warned its catering staff, who risked their lives working in hospitals during the pandemic, that they were no longer needed now that the crisis was easing.

Elior provides catering services such as restaurants and coffee shops for Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs five hospitals in London.

During the crisis, the taxpayer-funded trust paid the catering workers’ wages, and free meals were provided for NHS staff. That arrangement has now ended, with the company stating that it will now shed almost 50 per cent of its workers, who are on insecure contracts. The rest will have their working hours cut by 10 per cent.

Unite called on the trust’s bosses to take the workers back into direct employment and redeploy them.

Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon said: “The trust management needs to step in urgently to save the jobs of our hard-working members, who have fed NHS staff day and night during this pandemic.

“It is a disgrace that the trust is allowing profit-hungry Elior to throw our members on the scrapheap after all they have done.

“Some of our members have worked at the Barts Trust for nearly 30 years and this is very shabby reward for their loyalty.”

She called for a “serious rethink by management about getting rid of these outsourcing contracts once and for all.”

Earlier this year, Elior faced a backlash over its poor pay for catering staff working in Nottingham hospitals.

And tonight, furious NHS staff will march on Downing Street to express their disgust at the refusal of a pay rise.

Last week, Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak excluded NHS staff from public-sector pay rises.

Nurses and other NHS staff, who have seen the value of their wages cut by 20 per cent since 2010, must wait until April next year for a rise when current employment contracts end.

Unite has accused Mr Sunak of having “a selective memory” when it comes to public-sector pay, rewarding some but ignoring hundreds of thousands of others.

Unite national officer for health, Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, said: “Nursing staff and other allied health professionals have reacted with anger to being overlooked when pay rises were given to many in the public sector last week.

“What we have seen in the last few months is generous praise, warm words, and lots of Thursday-evening clapping by ministers.

“Yet we got a flavour of the government’s true feelings with Rishi Sunak’s lack of a pay announcement for NHS staff last week.

Unite branch secretary at London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital, Mark Boothroyd, said: “After all our sacrifice during the pandemic, to exclude us from the pay deal and make us wait till April 2021 is a slap in the face, and our members are going to Downing Street to tell Boris Johnson this directly.”

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