Cleaners and catering staff at a hospital in Neath, Wales, staged a 24-hour strike in protest yesterday at what they say is a decrease in working hours.
Staff at Neath Port Talbot Hospital, contracted by OCS Ltd, say they have been told their hours are to be cut. Officials from trade union Unison said the 140 staff affected are angry and added an independent report recommended hours should in fact be increased. But a spokesperson for OCS denied there had been a cut in working hours.
The OCS spokesman said: "We are, of course, extremely disappointed that, in spite of repeated reassurances that there will be no job losses or any reduction in hours for our staff, industrial action is deemed necessary.
"Unison's main concern appears to be based upon an independent report undertaken some two years ago which, incidentally, recommended fewer hours in many areas than we now provide under the revised arrangements, particularly in hospital wards.
"Technology and functions within the hospital have moved on and we are simply implementing and investing in best practice hospital cleaning based upon our experience of servicing over 300 NHS establishments throughout the UK."
But Unison said OCS has decided to cut the hours worked at the hospital each week by its members from 2,770 to 2,555. The union claimed the decision was made despite a report from an independent assessor which recommended the weekly hours needed to keep the hospital clean should be increased to 2,968 hours.
Sandra Miller from Unison said: "OCS Limited management have ridiculously said the cuts in staffing hours can be implemented because they have issued new mops.
"They should be taking notice of the independent assessors who based their weekly cleaning hours on the staffing hours within the other hospitals in Wales."
Senior personnel from OCS were drafted in to ensure cleaning and catering services were unaffected by the industrial action. A spokesman for the hospital said the strike has not affected services.
General Manager Karl Murray said: "Everything is continuing as normal.
"OCS, who are involved in the dispute, have maintained the service by bringing managers from other health divisions".