Published: 14:40, 30 December 2017
Staff at Medway Maritime Hospital have been “let down” by bosses over plans to change the rota system, according to one ex-employee.
A ballot for industrial action, called after talks between Unite union leaders and the trust broke down, closed on December 22.
However, despite more than 80% of those who voted wanting to strike, not enough people went to the ballot.
Rose Newman, who was an anaesthetist assistant, left the Gillingham hospital in April after working in the Sunderland Day Case Centre surgery department for 11 years.
She says 40-50% of staff have left because of proposals which would see day surgery staff expected to work in the main theatre longer.
Medway NHS Foundation Trust said the changes have been made because of issues covering the surgical department and they are bringing the system in line with how theatre teams work across the country.
But Ms Newman, from Minster, said: “They didn’t come and say what do you think of this – they just did it. So we had to get Unite involved.
“It was working fine in the day surgery. People started at 8am and would finish when the last patient had gone.
“They could work around looking after their children but they’ve now been told they have to request their current working hours but they might not get it.
“It’s different to main surgery. You expect to work long hours. It’s for emergencies.
“We were like one big family but everything has changed and they’ve broken something that doesn’t need fixing.
“We were like one big family but everything has changed and they’ve broken something that doesn’t need fixing" - Rose Newman
“They’ve upset the apple cart. They’ve upset everybody and more and more people are leaving.”
Rose said if she was still working for the trust, she would've voted for industrial action.
She said: “All of the community would be behind them, if they knew what it was like there.
“These people making decisions are on six-figure salaries but we’re the ones doing the real work. They’ve completely let us down.”
Unite regional officer, Kathy Walters, said: “Because of the draconian trade union legislation introduced by the Tories, we were not able to reach the strict ballot thresholds for industrial action that are now required, despite the majority who voted wanting to take such action in the New Year.
“We believe that democracy in the workplace is being throttled because these laws, which are some of the harshest in western Europe.
“However, the management of the Medway NHS Foundation Trust does recognise the Kent hospital faces a continuing ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis in the operating theatres.
“As a result, Unite and the trust management will meet in the New Year, under the auspices of Acas, the conciliation service, in a bid to resolve this dispute.
“Unite will be entering into these talks in a constructive fashion to seek a satisfactory resolution for the benefit of the patients that use the hospital and those dedicated staff that put in long hours to keep the NHS functioning 24/7.”
The ballot was being held following a break down in talks over rotas introduced on November 13 which changed the number of hours members of staff were working.
When Unite, the union backing hte theatre staff, announced a ballot was to be held,
Karen Rule director of nursing said the hospital was committed to continuing talks with staff.
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