|Volume 49 Number 6, April 13, 2019||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Security staff employed by Mitie Security in Accident and Emergency at Southampton General Hospital struck work at the beginning of this month and began an overtime ban over pay rates, sick pay and safety concerns. Two further 24-hour strikes are planned for April 19 and May 24, a 48-hour stoppage starting on May 3, and a 72-hour strike starting on June 7.
Unite said that the workers are at "breaking point". Unite lead officer for health in the south east, Scott Kemp said: "Our members are at the forefront of providing security and a safe environment for staff, patients and visitors. At present, 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. 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."
Reflecting the increased stress of the job, the pay demand is from the current £8.64 to £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.
So far, the company offer is £9 per hour, and would double the amount of sick pay and provide some protection equipment. Unite has called for personal protection gear such as stab vests and safety restraints, six months' full-pay followed by six months' half-pay for all sickness absences and "transparent investigations" into any attacks. Unite also asked that leg restraints be used across the hospital rather than just in A&E.
A security guard at the hospital, interviewed by the BBC said, "We've been punched in the face, we've been kicked, we've been stomped on, we've been strangled, scratched. We've had people spit in our eye. Other guards I've seen have had broken ribs. My concern is not if, but when, is one of us going to get stabbed because of the level of violence happening on a week to week, day to day, basis at the moment?"
The company has also now been forced to look at body-worn cameras. According to the BBC, Mitie had only been prepared to consider stab vests, had not agreed a timescale for their introduction, and indeed would not guarantee that they would be introduced at all.
Security staff in the health service are facing the brunt of the violence in society, which is in a state of profound crisis and decline as a result of the deepening anti-social offensive and attack on the rights of all, along with the increasing use of force to sort out problems. Blame is attributed solely to individuals the rather than the crisis of society itself and the violence within it, so that these social problems are reduced to individual ones and made into an issue of law and order.
Part of the offensive is the denial that society has a responsibility for its members so that people are left to fend for themselves. In such a situation, the security workers have had to take the issue into their own hands. Only through the defence of the rights of all and affirming the politics of social responsibility will security be ensured.