WE’RE the invisible staff” is the slogan striking hospital staff have adopted to get their employers’ attention and demand more pay for their work

More than 330 cleaners, porters and caterers at Royal Bolton Hospital walked out yesterday and two picket lines were set up in the Minerva Road and Plodder Lane entrances to the hospital. 

Today the strike will continue and a rally will take place in Victoria Square where hospital staff from Wigan will talk about their struggle and Sir David Crausby MP will also give a speech. 

Royal Bolton Hospital has reassured patients it is still operating as normal and advised people with appointments to attend as usual. 

Vicky, aged 29, a domestic at Royal Bolton Hospital said: "We're on strike because we want to be treated like everybody else.

"We are trained, it's about infection control and cross contamination. You don't get a cloth and clean whatever like in an office. We pull beds out, we're on our hands and knees, we're using machinery.

"We're the invisible staff aren't we? We're seen as the invisible staff to our employers, they don't value how much we do. If it wasn't for us the place would be dirty."

The striking staff are employed by iFM Bolton, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bolton NHS Foundation Trust and are on a separate contract to other hospital staff.

This Is Lancashire:

Striking staff in Minerva Road, Bolton

They had been on the same as band one staff at the hospital but following an NHS pay rise there is a disparity.

The iFM staff are on £7.83 an hour and are seeking a rise in line with the NHS contract which is £8.92 an hour, rising to £9.89 over two years.

UNISON members have already rejected two offers from iFM below this threshold and have announced a further three days of strikes later in the month.

UNISON says that the pay rise would equate to around £2,000 a year, Vicky said: "It would be extra gas and electric. I've got my own house it's bill money, you're working to pay your bills and I think we are valuable members of staff."

Staff at the picket lines were upbeat and positive about their action and domestic Andrea Lee, aged 43, said: "It's a really good turnout, people are smiling, for so long everyone has been down and stressed but look at them smiling!"

She said the reason the strike had taken place was because "it feels like they are not listening". 

Ms Lee added: "Our management don't speak to us or say hello but since this quite a few have been going round telling [staff] to accept the offer. They are saying 'it's a good offer, I think you should take it'."

UNISON members were pleased with the support they were getting from other hospital staff and their supervisors, plenty of people were beeping their horns in support as they entered and exited the hospital, including an ambulance on one occasion.