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Break down in negotiations between trust and a union over rise in staff parking charges

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Nursing staff at a trust in the North East look unlikely to receive compensation for a hike in parking permit charges, following a breakdown in talks between managers and a union.

Negotiations over a recent rise in parking charges appear to have now ended between trust leaders and union officials, which were sparked by an employment tribunal ruling.

“The trust should accept the tribunal decision and refund all affected staff without delay”

Pat McCourt

The union Unite claimed that South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had chosen not to reimburse staff, despite having lost a test case on the matter in May last year. In turn, the trust said it had made an initial compensation offer that had been rejected by the union.

The test case, which centred on one member of staff, was brought by Unite in response to a wider increase in charging more for parking permits that it claimed had been imposed without negotiation and was, therefore, “bypassing normal procedures”.

Since the tribunal, both sides have engaged in talks to resolve whether more staff should receive compensation due to the lack of previous negotiation prior to the rise in charges.

However, the current talks have come to an end without resolution after the trust said it would not reduce the fee to its original level or refund staff for the deductions already made.

Unite this week accused the trust of treating its staff with “contempt” and demanded that it “reverses its decision, complied with the tribunal’s ruling and refund all the affected staff”.

The union highlighted that it had won the tribunal on behalf of its member Mr M Sandford, a clinical technologist.

Mr Sandford had claimed an unfair deduction of wages after the trust increased the cost of his car parking permit by £2.30 a month without negotiation with union representatives.

The tribunal found in favour of the staff member and awarded him £6.90 for the three months of wrongly deducted charges.

However, while it disagreed with the decision, the trust said it chose not to appeal because it felt “this wasn’t good use of taxpayers’ money”.

Unite stated that following the tribunal verdict, it entered into negotiations with the trust on behalf of other staff members who were also having payments “unfairly” deducted from their wages, with the aim of getting them refunds.

But it said talks to resolve the matter ended in early December when the trust announced it would not be refunding the staff the amount that had been deducted from staff wages.

“Our car parking charges for staff are in line with charges in other trusts in the region”

South Tees NHS Foundation Trust

In a statement, South Tees said: “Our car parking charges for staff are in line with charges in other trusts in the region and are used to provide and maintain parking for our nine thousand staff.”

Regarding the current impasse on progress in talks, the trust added: “We’re surprised and disappointed that the Unite union have decided to make these claims.”

It highlighted that the pair had been in discussions about parking charges and other related issues since early in 2017.

“We made a reasonable offer to the union representatives back in October 2018, as part of package of measures, which would reimburse all affected staff for the small increase in car parking. However, this offer has been declined by union representatives,” it stated.

In its press release on the matter, Unite made no reference to this previous “offer” of reimbursement from the trust.

According to Unite, the trust had argued that the “compensation which is understood to amount to £10,000 per month would open it to ‘extensive financial risk’”.

Unite regional officer Pat McCourt said: “The trust is treating the tribunal process, staff and the unions with contempt.”

“They have disregarded longstanding negotiating procedures and are acting in a reckless manner which risks the goodwill of staff, who are the backbone of the NHS,” he added.

He argued that the union had chosen to bring a test “in order not to overburden the trust with a massive employment case”.

“Once the tribunal ruled in Unite’s favour, it was incumbent on the trust to negotiate to ensure that these issues were resolved for the entire workforce,” he said.

Mr McCourt added: “The fact the trust is trying to plug financial holes in the budget by fleecing its own staff is unforgivable, the trust should accept the tribunal decision and refund all affected staff without delay.”

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