TRADE union members at Great Western Hospital are set to ballot for action over bullying and harassment of staff by their contractor.
About 150 GMB members employed by private contractor Carillion at the GWH are to ballot for strike action over bullying, harassment and discrimination by their management.
The workers are employed as porters, theatre technicians, in catering and cleaning and other support roles in the hospital.
They also claim that Carillion will not allow them to take holiday between now and the beginning of January, even though the hospital slows down over the Christmas period.
GWH was one of the first hospitals to be built under the Private Finance Initiative at a cost of £148m with Carillion as the lead contractor.
GMB regional officer Carole Vallelly said: “GMB members at the hospital had a private meeting with Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary, when he visited them at hospital on Monday.
“He was told of the myriad problems members are experiencing at the hands of managers of Carillion.
“These problems have as their root the PFI contractor’s failure to deal properly with concerns over holiday arrangements, shift arrangements and general consultation with the staff.
“Instead they face a culture of bullying, harassment and discrimination.”
A spokesman for Carillion said the company was disappointed to hear the allegations but claims not to have received the allegations referred to by GMB.
He said: “We have a long history of excellent employee relations with our staff at the Great Western Hospital and are very disappointed to hear of the allegations outlined in the GMB’s news release.
“We take matters of this nature very seriously and have well-established processes under which our employees are encouraged to come forward with any concerns they may have, so that allegations of this kind can be investigated.
“However, as we have not received the allegations to which the GMB refers, we cannot comment further at this stage.”
But Swindon’s GMB branch secretary Andy Newman disagreed.
“Carillion refuses to negotiate with GMB so we have been unable to formally lay out the issues. But several staff members have raised these issues with their supervisors,” he said.
“Carillion will not allow staff to take holiday between December 10 and January 7, even though the hospital does slow down over the holiday period. This doesn’t make business sense, and inconveniences staff who wish to share the holidays with their family.
“Many of the staff are devout Christians and we believe that this amounts to religious discrimination, and we are consulting our solicitors. All the staff are asking for is to be treated with respect.”
Oonagh Fitzgerald, the director of workforce and education at the GWH NHS Foundation Trust ,said allegations made by a member of a staff of a contractor, or other third party, are the responsibility of the company concerned.
“We are confident that if the union provides information to support the allegations then they will be investigated openly and fairly by Carillion,” she said.