Coperforma has agreed to settle unpaid wages to drivers affected by the collapse of a Sussex patient transport service sub-contractor earlier this month.
Some employees of Docklands Medical Service had not been paid at the end of August, and when the firm folded others were also left out of pocket.
Earlier this week Coperforma, which took over the contract in April, said it was ‘extremely sympathetic’ to those who had lost their jobs, but argued that they were not Coperforma employees.
But according to the GMB union, the company has now agreed to make payments to staff at a meeting with GMB members and the High Weald Lewes Havens Clinical Commissioning Group.
If Coperforma does not meet agreed and set pay dates going forward the CCGs have given assurance that funds will be made available to the payroll company arranged by the GMB.
Gary Palmer, GMB regional organiser, said: “GMB members are very pleased to hear the news that responsibility for this mess has finally been apportioned to the right people and that they accept the need to put right a long standing embarrassment for PTS services and our members in Sussex.
“The agreement will see the combined CCG’s accepting responsibility for money owing if Coperforma fail to deliver on their promises, a move both GMB and the CCGs agree is necessary considering staff’s treatment and experiences to date.” He added: “What happens now regarding GMB members getting back out on the road, delivering services to the patients of Sussex, is still to be clarified and arranged now that, for all intents and purposes, Docklands have gone. The priority was, however, that we resolved the pay issue first which will see money in banks.
“Our thanks of course go to everyone who have worked so hard to get us to this point, they are too many to mention, but Sussex MPs and councillors certainly need a mention and we will be contacting them separately to pass on our thanks and the thanks of our members.”
Wendy Carberry, chief officer of High Weald Lewes Havens CCG, said: “The seven Sussex Clinical Commissioning Groups, responsible for putting in place NHS services, including the contract for non-emergency patient transport, today announced that a way has been found to pay staff at one of the transport sub-contractors, some of whom have not been paid since July.
“The Sussex CCGs have been working for several weeks, since we were made aware there was a problem, to ensure that Docklands staff get paid. We ensured that an advanced payment was made from Coperforma to Docklands Medical Services with the understanding that that some of that money be used by Docklands to pay staff. Unfortunately Docklands didn’t do this.
“It is completely unacceptable that staff should be in this position. The problem we have faced is that they are not employees of the CCGs, nor of Coperforma, and it has not been straightforward to find a way to get money to staff. We met yesterday (September 21) with Coperforma and GMB and Coperforma agreed to make the payment through GMB, which has hired a company to work out the payroll issues.
“The immediate priority is to pay those staff who have not been paid for August, and then next week to pay all Docklands staff for September.
“We expect Coperforma to make the first payment by Friday, but if for any reason that doesn’t happen the CCGs will step in and pay them on Monday 26th September from our own funds and get this back later through the contract payments.
“Once again, we’d like to apologise to staff who have kept the service going and continued to make themselves available for work in spite of the problems which are not of their making.”
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