Support staff at Brighton and Hove’s main hospital trust are holding a strike ballot.
The staff currently work for the contractor Sodexo and belong to the GMB trade union.
The union, the GMB, said: “Sodexo’s failure to deal with outstanding issues leaves members no choice other than to take this ultimate step.
“GMB, the union for staff in the health service, will ballot members employed by Sodexo at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust for industrial action as on-going attempts to reach agreement over fair pay and contracts has reached an impasse.
“Sodexo, whose £15 million a year contract to provide soft FM (facilities management) services has been cancelled by Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, are stalling on negotiations to settle contracts for GMB members for a living wage pay claim.
“GMB are also looking for housekeepers, hosts and cleaners to be regraded under NHS AfC (Agenda for Change) terms on to a banding which will see some of the lowest paid workers gain a pay increase equivalent to a living age standard.”
GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer said: “GMB is calling on Sodexo to do the right thing before they cut and run and end the two tier workforce approach and assimilate all staff on to AfC terms and conditions prior to their being transferred into the trust on (Saturday) 1 August and to additionally offer casual staff who have worked for Sodexo for three months or more the option of a full-time or part-time AfC contract should they wish to take the opportunity to do so.
“Sodexo’s whole approach to this contract has been a mess from start to finish here in Brighton.
“They arrived in 2012 with threats of over 100 redundancies. They failed to pay staff properly for over six weeks or even at all very shortly after commencing service delivery over the Christmas period, an issue which has continued to plague staff at times throughout their time here.
“Lack of resources has seen staff struggling with delivering an acceptable service level, regardless of their very hard work, because of the lack of equipment and material shortages through underfunding and since April 2014 a long running pay dispute where members have been seeking a fair pay rise equivalent to a living wage.
“Sodexo’s failure to deal with this latest matter leaves members no choice other than to take this ultimate step.
“Delaying matters so to push the problem on to the incoming employer, in this case Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, just reinforces their total disrespect for their hard working staff, who although delighted with being transferred back into the NHS fold, would finally like to be paid properly and fairly for all their hard work.
“Sodexo must not be allowed to simply wash their hands and walk away absolved of their responsibilities and the GMB and our members feel that they have an obligation to them, as low paid workers, to put in place paying a living wage equivalent within the trust’s AfC pay scales before any transfer.
“This is the very least our members deserve as recompense for two years of low pay, constant pay role errors and total under resourcing and staffing which has seen service delivery affected regardless of our members outstanding hard work.
“Striking is never an easy choice for those who can least afford to lose the money in the first place.
“But that’s exactly what our members have been pushed to decide on in order to simply try and feed their family, pay bills, keep up with paying the rent and try to improve their quality of life.
“Surely a fair expectation which even Sodexo would agree with?”