Exeter porters will strike again as Trust refuse compromise on 12 hour shifts

Public service union UNISON notified the Trust that the porters will strike again from 18:00 on 3 November until 06:00 on 6 November.

Porters in public service union UNISON will take further strike action at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital after management failed to take 12 hour shift plans off the table.

96% of porters voted to strike and received support from across the country during their action over the second weekend of October. UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis sent his support to the porters and Twitter users from Cornwall to Scotland followed the hashtag #RespectourPorters.

Despite Acas talks being called and meetings scheduled the RD&E Trust has declined to respond to repeated calls ahead of talks to return to negotiations without the 12 hour shift plan.

UNISON organiser Oliver Foster-Burnell said:

“Porters are determined not to let the Trust force through dangerous and unnecessary 12 hour shifts. They do not like striking, not least because they lose a day of their already low pay. But UNISON porters will strike again if the Trust refuses to listen. After 18 months of trying to convince the Trust to compromise, this is their only option.

“Patients and staff across the hospital will suffer if the Trust forces through 12 hour shifts on these experienced staff. That is why the porters will strike again and show management this is a serious matter for the whole community. We are calling on the Trust to keep their behaviour above board, after hearing stories of workers threatened with loss of work if they don’t agree to cover the strike period. The whole hospital sees the value of their porters. Management must not lower morale further by trying to divide the workforce.”

“The porters’ message to management is crystal clear: we will immediately call off the strike if you park the 12 hour shifts and negotiate freely. UNISON has proposed alternatives that other hospitals use successfully. It is incomprehensible why the Trust still refuse to listen. Unfortunately it fits a pattern of bad attitudes from RD&E management that led to our campaign’s slogan: Respect Our Porters.”

In April 2016 UNISON reviewed the impact of 12 hour shifts and published a report based on the findings. It found that in physically demanding jobs, 12 hour shifts are harmful to both staff and patients.

UNISON South West regional secretary Joanne Kaye said:

“The clinical and academic evidence points to fatigue and tiredness when working 12 hours shifts. This contributes to absenteeism and job dissatisfaction amongst staff. This would clearly be the case with staff such as Porters undertaking such physical work.

“There is a reason why Porters in the majority of NHS organisations don’t work 12 hour shifts. There is a clear link between working long hours and risk of illness, injury and poor decision making.

“The evidence indicates the delivery of patient care is poorer when working 12 hour shifts. It also shows that the communication skills and reflexes needed for the job are impaired when working long shifts. The fact that some employers are going back to 8 hour shifts reinforces this view.”

Read more about the RD&E porters strike