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NHS Grampian drivers show willingness to strike in row with ‘Stone Age’ bosses

GMB organiser Melanie Greenhalgh.
Picture by Darrell Benns.
GMB organiser Melanie Greenhalgh. Picture by Darrell Benns.

NHS staff responsible for transporting life-saving equipment between north-east hospitals have unanimously backed the prospect of strikes – if a solution isn’t found in a dispute with “Stone Age” bosses.

Members of the GMB union were polled in a consultative ballot, with 100% voting to show they would be willing to walk out over claims of management “intimidation” and “aggression”.

Around 40 drivers and workers at NHS Grampian’s Central Stores at Foresterhill have now indicated support for potential industrial action, including strikes, if concerns are not addressed quickly.

Staff are responsible for the transport of vital equipment – including dialysis machines and incubators – around Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray.

The union has been in discussions with the health board over the past weeks but has voiced frustrations at the rate of progress.

Should talks break down, a second ballot would be required before industrial action goes ahead.

Previously staff – who asked for anonymity in fear of reprisals – claimed bullying was escalating and making ‘life not worth living’.

A source claimed bosses’ behaviour was even worse than that outlined in the government-commissioned Sturrock report, which looked at bullying and harassment within NHS Highland.

Last night, GMB organiser Melanie Greenhalgh said: “There is some concern about how long talks are taking while staff are still facing problems.

“This is a call to really take on board the need for resolution and for management to communicate with their staff.

“This result is significant and should really send a shot across the bow.

“There is still intimidation and aggression coming from management towards staff, which is affecting their mental health.”

Ms Greenhalgh went on to describe their “control and concede”  style of management as “extremely Stone Age”.

The row between Central Stores staff and their managers first manifested last July when safety concerns were raised about the safety of a new fleet of lorries.

Drivers feared the Mitsubishi Fuso Canters purchased were not as safe or comfortable as the vehicles they replace.

NHS Grampian governance rules dictate staff should be consulted on new equipment bought for their use. The union has said they were not.

A change from hydraulic to manual lifting equipment has also prompted anger, while differing terms and conditions for agency workers has left full-time staff aggrieved.

But last night a spokesman for NHS Grampian revealed no-one had come forward to HR staff to report issues directly.

He said: “NHS Grampian continues to work closely with all staff and trade union representatives around a number of concerns raised within the service.

“Staff have been advised they can confidentially contact named officers within the HR Department to raise any concerns they have with us – to date we have not received any such calls.

“We remain committed to working in partnership through a range of actions to move to a mutually agreeable position.”

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