Unite says knife crime is rising but Mitie won't protect employees
A trade union has claimed that security staff at Southampton General Hospital are being put in danger of stabbing by their employer.
Unite said that its 21 security staff members were being attacked on a regular basis by members of the public either under the influence of drink or drugs, or with mental health problems.
The trade union said Mitie Security has failed to provide stab vests and safety restraints, even though knife-related incidents are increasing.
Unite lead officer for health in the south east Scott Kemp said:
“With cuts to the police force and mental health services, there is a tendency for those suffering from various conditions to be dropped off at the hospital and left to the security guards.
“The statistics are not easily available as to the number of our members who have been injured. There has been a lack of proper investigation into the incidents over a considerable period.
“The guards report incidents that have occurred on every shift, but the bosses at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and Mitie Security will only investigate when someone is injured.
“Our members are very concerned over incidents occurring right across the Tremona Road site when there has been little or no support from the police who are under pressure because of government cuts.
“Our argument is that we should not have to wait for someone to get injured before a full investigation is instigated.”
In response, Unite is holding a ballot of its members for strike action. As well as safety equipment, workers want better wages and sick pay.
Currently, security are paid £8.64 an hour but want £10.50 for security officers and £12.16 for supervisors, with additional payments of 50p per hour on night rates; £1 an hour on Saturday and double time on Sunday.
On sick pay, if the security staff are injured at work, and if the resulting investigation finds in their favour, they get two weeks’ full pay and then two weeks’ half-pay. After that, it is the statutory minimum, Unite said.
According to Kemp, this sick pay system means:
“We have members getting beaten up and then having to return to work after two weeks, when they are clearly not fit to, as to drop down to half-pay would mean missing mortgage or rent payments and significant financial hardship.”
“What we want is enhanced sickness payments for those off work due to being injured protecting patients and hospital staff; proper and transparent investigations into all attacks; and our members having the necessary personal protection equipment.
“Our members are seeking six months’ full-pay, followed by six months’ half-pay for all sickness absences. We don’t think those are unreasonable requests, given the level of violence in today’s society generally.”
Police numbers across the UK are declining as a result of the UK government’s austerity programme, particularly cuts implemented by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary.
Southampton’s police force is no exception. According to the Daily Echo, Hampshire Police has cut more than 500 front-line police officers since 2012.
Public services across the UK increasingly rely on outsourcing companies like Mitie to provide services for them.
These outsourcing companies have been accused of cutting costs by paying workers the bare minimum.
Mitie is one of the biggest outsourcing companies and has experience several strikes.
In March 2018, Mitie employees cleaning the Daily Mail’s offices won the London Living Wage after going on strike.
Update: A Mitie spokesperson said: “We take the safety of our staff very seriously and are piloting the wearing of safety gear on site. We are meeting with Unite and ACAS later this month to discuss their proposals.”
Joe Lo is a freelance journalist and reporter for Left Foot Forward
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