More than 30 maintenance staff at Newcastle’s hospitals will be balloted for strike action in a work/life balance row, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Wednesday 27 March).

Unite said that NHS bosses had failed to provide convincing evidence for the changes in shift working for its members that, the union warns, could endanger patient safety.

Thirty-five electricians, engineers, plumbers, maintenance assistants and supervisors employed by the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, the Dental Hospital and Freeman Hospital, will start balloting for strike action over the shift changes on Monday 1 April. The ballot closes on Thursday 11 April.

The crux of the dispute is that 08.00-16.00 shift will change once every four weeks to 12.00 till 20.00 for the day shift. The other aspect of the dispute is introducing a new 24/7 pattern when the team currently made up of two skilled craft employees and one assistant will be reduced to one craft person.

Unite regional officer Dave Telford said: “What we have here is an erosion of our members’ work/life balance. The trust bosses have produced no convincing evidence for these changes – despite repeated requests by Unite.

“We have serious concerns about patient safety with the 24/7 shift changes.

“You could have a case of an elderly patient being trapped in a lift, or fire alarms could go off without warning – resulting in the one member of the maintenance team on duty at night requiring the assistance of the on-call engineer, who would obviously take some time to attend from home, leaving patients potentially trapped in a lift or evacuated due to an alarm for significantly longer than necessary.

“Unite is open for a constructive dialogue with the trust management to avert any possible strike action, but we are not going to have our members’ employment conditions rode roughshod over when no coherent data for the need for such changes has, as yet, been produced.” 


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065 email: [email protected]

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.