Union calls strike ballot for ambulance staff over unpaid back pay

Posted On 27 Jul 2016 at 6:55 pm

The GMB union has called a strike ballot of members working for the Sussex Patient Transport Service over unpaid back pay.

The union said that ambulance staff were owed an estimated £45,000 in back pay and unsocial hours payments by the latest sub-contractor Docklands Medical Services.

It also emerged today that Docklands was registered as a company as recently as April by businessman Christopher Arnall.

His other business, Docklands Medical Services (London), went bust last month owing a six-figure sum. The creditors included Revenue and Customs, owed almost £90,000. Trade creditors were owed almost £40,000.

Announcing the strike ballot, GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer said: “This is yet another blow to GMB members who have been treated abysmally since Coperforma took over this ill-fated contract.”

Coperforma took over the patient transport service contract on Friday 1 April from the South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb).

The company sub-contracted some of the work to VM Langfords which has gone into administration, leaving staff without jobs, patients at risk and debts of more than £400,000. Bailiffs had seized five of the company’s ambulances shortly before.

Docklands took over the non-emergency ambulance work that had been sub-contracted to VM Langfords on Tuesday 28 June.

Coperforma generic

According to the GMB, Docklands and Coperforma have repeatedly promised to honour all staff liabilities including outstanding back pay, holiday pay and pension contributions.

But staff are now being told that they may have to wait as long as six months for the pay that they are owed.

The consultative ballot ends on Friday (29 July). Members are being asked what action they are willing to take to ensure that their employer pays staff what they are owed.

Mr Palmer said: “Staff were transferred out of the NHS against their wishes to an inexperienced company who were always going to struggle with the size of the contract.

“Three months later, the staff endured yet more uncertainty as their employer, VM Langfords, became insolvent potentially leaving staff without jobs.

“Workers were then moved again to Docklands Medical Services with the promise that all outstanding pay and pension contributions would be forthcoming.

“Now, only one month on, staff have had yet another slap in the face as promises to settle outstanding pay have come to nothing as Coperforma attempts to draw out paying staff what they are owed.

“Until now, GMB members have been happy to focus on delivering the best service they can, despite the efforts of Coperforma and Langfords to pull the rug from under their feet, ruining what was once a reliable and professional service in Sussex.

“The staff’s patience has now worn thin and GMB members are understandably unwilling to wait for six months to get the money they are owed with the memory of their last employer’s liquidation still fresh in their minds.

“The time has come for GMB members to take action and this ballot must send a clear message from them to Coperforma: We have done right by you throughout this fiasco so do right by us now and pay us what we are owed.”

  1. Dave Eve Reply

    Well you can’t blame the GMB or staff. This has and continues to be a complete fiasco, it is obvious to anyone that this contract is held by a company that is totally useless and uses sub contractors who are even more useless and just want to everything on the cheap including theft from its staff.
    I find it difficult to believe that there appears to be no supervision by the Trust of this contract or the suitability of sub contractors.

  2. Valerie Paynter Reply

    My patient transport experience today is instructive.

    Outward journey: Ontime for 10am appointment at the RSCH Renal Outpatients Dept. Thames Ambulance. I was the sole pickup. They had to come from East Grinstead to take me to the RSCH. Was there not a vehicle from closer that could have been used? One taking more than one patient. They told me they were only getting pickups for one patient at a time. Think of the overheads incurred by working this way!

    Return journey. Thames Ambulance. I waited till 1:30 for it. Over 3 1/2 hours. I learned from the crew (two patient pickup this time!) that they had been on duty since 7am without a break. They had been about to go ON a break when they got the order (via the App)at 1:20 to pick me up!!! How is that for treating the crews badly!!

    Coperforma are racking up HUGE overheads from profoundly inefficient working practices (plus not using the volunteer drivers that used to be in place before all this app on Android phones and having new vehicles disqualified most of them from working under Coperforma). No wonder they cannot pay people who are doing their work FOR them. They are outrageous.

  3. Valerie Paynter Reply

    P.S. Both crews were very talkative about what is going on and not happy with Coperforma’s chaotic operating practices.

  4. James Stanley Reply

    Coperforma need to strengthen their procedures and systems in Ambulance Control. The staff at the private ambulance services are doing their best to provide as good a service as they can however the reliance on the App to control everything and do all the allocation automatically with the control not overriding it at times is what is hampering the service. Thames Ambulance Service seem to be by far the best provider and it is a shame that Coperforma could not have given the whole Sussex contract to them, their vehicles are brand new, very clean and their crews are experienced and professional compared to some of the other sub contractors who do not provide such a good service. There is also ambulances taking walking patients to appointments, due to a lack of cars, which is a waste of an ambulatory resource. Perhaps Thames and other providers should have more cars so they can use single manned crews to transport walkers.

  5. Smithy Reply

    I work for Thames Ambulance have only been with the company less than a month and have been informed today that all the trainees maybe redundant because of good old coperforma. They have made Thames lose 20 vehicles and 3 more are going tomoro. I love this job and now I’ve got to find something else. WELL DONE COPERFORMA YOUVE F£&ked up again.

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