Just a dozen out of 223 NHS trusts are signed up to paying workers the Real Living Wage, research revealed tonight.
The GMB union said only 12 health trusts in England were accredited with the Living Wage Foundation – guaranteeing that all staff, including outside contractors, receive the voluntary hourly rate which is higher than the Government’s legal minimum.
Other trusts may pay the rate to all employees without being part of the LWF programme.
Campaigners have long demanded employers using outsourced workers like cleaners, security guards and porters make it a condition of agreeing contracts that those staff will receive at least the Real Living Wage.
The legal minimum hourly level, which the Government calls its National Living Wage, is £8.72 an hour, falling to £8.20 for those aged between 21 and 24, and just £6.45 for those aged 18 to 20.
In contrast, the Real Living Wage is £9.30 for all age groups, rising to £10.75 in London where costs are higher.
The GMB was celebrating today after West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust agreed to pay all workers the Real Living Wage.
The union’s London organiser Hilda Tavolara said: “Our members face the same risk as their NHS-employed colleagues and they absolutely deserve the same reward.
“We celebrate West Herts NHS for funding this pay rise but they’re in the minority.
“Thousands of hospital cleaners and porters have faced down this deadly pandemic unprotected, with rock bottom sick pay and unable to meet the cost of living; that’s not right.
“The Real Living Wage is not a luxury, it’s the absolute minimum people need to make ends meet each month.
“For too long our hospital cleaners and porters have been neglected, but as we see the cases of Covid-19 increase, now more than ever NHS trusts must step up and guarantee everyone working in our hospitals can earn enough to live on.”
Matthew Bolton, executive director of campaign group Citizens UK, said: “Social care staff, hospital cleaners and porters are amongst the key worker heroes on the frontline coping with the pandemic.
“It simply isn’t right that so many key workers get paid such low wages.”
A West Herts NHS Trust spokeswoman said it recognised that “all the staff on our sites work together to provide the best care for our patients” and it was “delighted” to have reached a Living Wage agreement “with one of our major contractors”.
She added: “We are now working hard with our other contractors and are confident of the same success.
“The contribution of porters, cleaners and car parking attendants is all part of the patient experience and so we want to know that these staff are fairly rewarded for what they do.
“We’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the many non-NHS staff who work alongside us.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “Every worker in our NHS and social care delivers fantastic care and support, and through Agenda for Change we have backed them with a multi-year pay deal, increasing the start salary by over 16% to just over £18,000 – well beyond the National Living wage and inflation since the start of the deal.”
The GMB’s revelation comes as NHS heroes take to the streets on Saturday pleading for a pay rise.
Frontline health staff who risked their lives during the coronavirus pandemic were left out of a public sector wage hike this summer – triggering dismay, anger and hurt.
Unions, MPs and campaigners have called on the Government to reward workers’ vital service with a salary hike.
Demonstrations will take place in more than 20 towns and cities as protesters call for a 15% pay rise.