Workers at the Cumberland Infirmary are poised to take strike action because they claim their employer has not paid them for working unsocial hours.
Trade unions Unison and the GMB said the strike action could be averted if the NHS trust which runs the hospital tells them how unsocial hours payments for outsourced workers are funded.
The workers – around 150 porters, cleaners, switchboard and catering staff at the Carlisle hospital – are employed by Mitie.
A statement from Unison said North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust told both unions that an uplift for unsocial hours was included in the new arrangements when the contract for hospital facilities staff was negotiated in 2010.
But, the unions claim the workers have never seen the money.
Two 24-hour strikes are set to go ahead on February 26 and March 1 in a bid to secure the unsocial hours payments in future.
Unison said that the trust’s finance director told it: “The trust understands that a substantial sum was included in the new financial model to address and finalise this issue”.
But Health Management Carlisle (HMC), the company that entered into a private finance initiative agreement to provide the services, and Mitie, the company which was contracted by HMC to deliver them, said this was not the case.
Unison North West regional organiser David Atkinson said: “UNISON and the GMB wrote to the trust more than two months ago to ask them to take an active role in resolving this dispute, but we were ignored.
“UNISON and the GMB don’t intend to get involved in discussions about the cash – that’s for the trust, HMC and Mitie to resolve – but we have called on the trust to clear up the confusion over what was paid in 2010.
“This strike could still be resolved if the trust addresses the statements issued by them, HMC and Mitie and gets involved in the talks to ensure the workers receive their deserved unsocial hours payments going forward.”
UNISON and the GMB said they had given Mitie “more notice than necessary” in an effort to resolve the dispute before strike action.
The unions have also offered to set up a working group to show how implementing unsocial hours payments can be offset by reduced sickness absence and overtime payments and increased staff retention, they said.
A spokesman for the trust said: “The trust urges the two parties to resolve their disputed matter without industrial action being taken.
“We are unable to comment specifically on the contractual matters between the trust and its PFI provider HMC, however, the trust continues to discuss these with HMC actively.
“We are expecting HMC to ensure disruption will be minimised and we are working to ensure that services continue for our patients in the normal way.”