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Hospital workers call off parking-charges protest at the 11th hour

Hospital staff in King's Lynn will now vote on board's revised offer for car park tariffs

Hospital staff in King's Lynn will now vote on board's revised offer for car park tariffs


Picture: Neil O’Connor

Hospital staff will be balloted by their union following a trust’s last-ditch attempt to resolve a row over car parking charges.

Unite members at Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King’s Lynn were due to protest outside the trust’s board meeting on 29 May, as managers prepared to approve plans to drastically increase the cost of onsite parking. However, a few minutes before the meeting began board members made a revised offer to the union, leading to an agreement to cancel the demonstration.

More than 1,400 employees have so far signed a petition calling on Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn NHS Foundation Trust to reconsider plans that Unite claims would double the current charges by April 2020.

The union says the new tariffs would mean staff on pay bands 5-7 would pay £22 a month, up from £15.96, rising to £27.50 in April 2019 and £33 in April 2020.

'Contractually obliged'

Unite lead officer for health in East Anglia Mark Robinson said managers told him they were contractually obliged to implement the rises for 2018-2019 on 1 June.

He revealed the last-minute offer amounted to a promise by the board to negotiate with the union and staff to ensure the charges from 2019-2020 onwards were affordable and fair.

Mr Robinson told Nursing Standard: ‘We will now ballot all members at QEH to see if they think this offer represents enough of a climbdown by the board to justify calling off our whole campaign on this issue.’

The hospital is in a rural part of Norfolk where a lack of public transport means most staff have little choice but to drive to work; some travelling considerable distances. Unite says those who work nights, weekends and bank holidays will be hit hardest by the price rises.

Alternatives

Mr Robinson added: ‘The trust has stressed the cost of parking has not risen since 2012, but we argue the staff haven’t had a pay rise since then either.

‘The trust has been in special measures for some time and it is well known they have a financial deficit; but instead of asking staff to pay more to park they should be lobbying the Department of Health for the funds they need to provide a necessary level of care to patients.

‘We have repeatedly warned them how deeply unpopular these proposals are and there is a risk that the lack of a meaningful consultation so far has damaged trust in those running this hospital.’

A QEH spokesperson said: 'Positive talks were held with Unite and staff to explore ongoing full consultation on all future annual rises from June 2019.'


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