By Alec Thraves (Swansea Socialist Party)
Hospital Sterilisation and Disinfection Unit (HSDU) workers at ABMU Health Board, covering Swansea, Neath/Port Talbot and Bridgend have been forced into taking strike action in an effort to bring their pay banding up to the equivalent of other HSDU workers in Health Boards across Wales.
As the lengthy name of their unit suggests, we would all be in a lot of trouble without the skill and dedicated work of these vital NHS staff who decontaminate operating theatres, wards, clinics and A&E departments as well as preparing surgical equipment to the highest standard of cleanliness.
As one striker at Morriston hospital in Swansea explained:- “We have to clean, sterilise and reassemble surgical equipment that has been contaminated with bits of bone, brain and grizzle. This is skilled and difficult job but we are just taken for granted by management!”
These workers are obviously highly skilled technicians but are still working to job descriptions that were written in 2004. Recognising the specialist expertise and competence required for this job other Health Boards in Wales have upgraded their HSDU technicians from band 2 up to band 3 which is still only an increase of starting pay from £8.25 an hour to £8.49.
Little wonder that after almost two years of unsuccessful negotiations with management there was a 79% turnout and a 96% vote for strike action by these Unison members.
The determined mood on the picket lines today should be a warning to management that unless these workers are brought in line with the banding of their counterparts across Wales then another 24 hour strike will take place next Wednesday.