Emergency meeting to be held over 'exploitation' claims at new Cramlington hospital

Trade union UCATT says construction workers are paying both employer and employee National Insurance contributions via an umbrella company

Members of the construction union UCATT demonstrating outside the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, Cramlington
Members of the construction union UCATT demonstrating outside the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, Cramlington

Health chiefs will hold an emergency meeting with contractors next week amid claims construction workers at a flagship NHS project are being exploited.

Dozens of members of trade union UCATT lined up to protest against working conditions at the new Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, in Cramlington, this morning.

They say staff at the publicly-funded hospital development are paying National Insurance contributions twice.

The workers are employed via umbrella companies and are said to be paying both employee and employer National Insurance contributions, which in some cases amounts to more than 25% of their eligible pay.

UCATT has branded the situation at the multi-million pound development “outrageous” while Northumbrian Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said yesterday it was “extremely disappointed”.

 

Denis Doody, regional secretary for UCATT’s Northern Region, said: “Today’s protest was a great success, we received an excellent response from workers on the site.

“The campaign is swiftly moving forward. The pressure we are applying will, I am sure, lead to changes on this site.

“Meanwhile similar exploitation has been found on other sites and our campaign will focus on these places in the near future.

“The NHS is the client, they have the power to ensure that all contractors and sub-contractors treat their workers fairly. It is essential they become involved and end this exploitation.”

The controversy comes after NHS Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh gave the new hospital his seal of approval in February, describing it as “a glimpse of the future” for healthcare nationwide.

UCATT says the use of umbrella companies to pay construction workers has increased following a change in the law in April.

New measures introduced by Government mean agencies and payroll companies must pay workers via PAYE and using umbrella companies means neither the contractor, agency or payroll company is liable for extra costs.

A trust spokesman said: “We have been made aware of this demonstration at the site of the new hospital at Cramlington.

“We are extremely disappointed on how this will potentially impact on people working on the site and we will be seeking urgent talks with the contractors to discuss the matter.”

The protest was supported by Blyth Valley Labour MP Ronnie Campbell. Mary Glindon, MP for North Tyneside, has also said she has written to North East health chiefs and plans to raise the issue in Parliament.

The specialist emergency care hospital is part of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s £200m investment in health care. It is due for completion in June 2015.

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