Union to ballot patient transport service staff on strike action

Patient transport service vehicles used by SECAmb before the contract was taken over by Coperforma

Patient transport service vehicles used by SECAmb before the contract was taken over by Coperforma

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Staff working in Sussex’s patient transport service could strike in September over an estimated total of £45,000 unpaid back-pay.

Coperforma took over the contract from South East Coast Ambulance Service back in April and since then patients have complained about numerous incidents of crews either not turning up or showing up late.

When VM Langfords, one of the company’s sub-contractors, went into administration earlier this year, Coperforma had to step in to guarantee staff would receive back-pay, but now the GMB union claims that their members have been told they have to wait as long as six months to receive outstanding payments.

These include overtime and unsocial hours pay, holiday pay, and pension contributions, and in a consultative ballot 92 per cent of GMB members who voted supported further action.

A further ballot will be held in early September on whether or not to strike if an agreement cannot be reached over outstanding payments.

Gary Palmer, GMB regional organiser, said “This ballot result should be seen by Coperforma and Docklands Medical Services as a clear warning that even the most dedicated, caring and loyal staff can only be pushed so far.

“The continuing failure to pay members significant back pay amounting to £45,000, together with this month’s failure to pay around a third of the staff their basic salary on time, means that employees’ confidence in their employer is at an all-time low.

“After seeing their last employer become insolvent leaving staff high and dry is bad enough but to then see your new employer struggling to not only keep promises to settle monies owed but to also struggle to even get basic salaries paid into accounts on time will leave staff with real concerns about what will happen over the next four weeks, let alone over the long term of the contract.

“The GMB ballot was based on a simple question to staff. Are you prepared to wait up to 6 months for money owed to you, or should your employer seek to settle outstanding pay immediately?

“The result is clear. Patience has worn thin and members will now require both stability and assurances that pay issues will be settled in the short and long term to prevent the very real possibility of strike action.

“The working agreement between employees and should be simple – our members are expected to turn up on time, carry out their duties professionally and to the best of their ability. In return their employer should at the very least ensure that the remuneration staff get for those duties is correct and paid on time.

“It shouldn’t be that difficult, should it?”

Coperforma have been approached for comment but has not yet responded.

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