CLEANERS, porters, security staff and catering assistants will walk out of the hospital today over a pay row.

Patients at Royal Bolton have been reassured that "as near to normal a service as possible" will be provided during the strike.

The UNISON members who are walking out have asked their bosses for a payrise inline with what staff doing similar jobs in other hospitals and those on band one in Royal Bolton received earlier this year.

These members of staff are employed by iFM Bolton, a wholly-owned subsidiary company of Bolton NHS Foundation Trust on a separate contact.

NHS staff are employed on a contract called Agenda for Change and received a pay rise this year.

Band one is on £8.92 an hour, rising to £9.89 an hour over two years while iFM staff have remained on £7.83.

Before the strike Kevin Lucas, UNISON north west regional manager said: “This is a very simple matter of fairness. Bolton’s hospital workers deserve to be paid the NHS rate for the important jobs that they do. Why should they receive less than people doing the same jobs in neighbouring hospitals?

“iFM Bolton managers made a promise to their staff that they would pay the NHS rates. They just need to fulfil that promise.

“Hospital staff are committed to the services they provide and the public that they serve, but they feel they have no option but to take strike action in these circumstances. They are not asking for much ­— just that their employer does what they said they’d do and pays the going rate for the job. It’s outrageous that health bosses in Bolton are trying to cut back on the wages of the lowest-paid staff in the NHS.

“The workers’ determination should not be underestimated. Hospital workers in Bolton deserve the dignity of equal treatment, and they are prepared to fight for it.”

UNISON members have previously rejected a two per cent pay offer back dated to April 1.

They also rejected an offer by iFM of a rise to £8.75 in line with the Real Living Wage, conditional on the strike being called off.

Today's strike starts at 7am and lasts 48 hours.

Managers at the Royal Bolton and iFM Bolton have said extra staff cover will be provided and there will be no compromise to patient safety during the two-day industrial action.

Patients are asked to attend any appointment they have as normal. A&E is open as usual and operations and clinics are not affected.

Andy Ennis, Chief Operating Officer at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The Royal Bolton Hospital is open and will be providing as normal a service as possible during the planned industrial action.

“Patient safety is our priority and as such as have been working with iFM Bolton to put cover in place to minimise the impact on services.”

Lesley Wallace, Finance Director of iFM, added: “We are disappointed that this industrial action is taking place and that Unison has announced a further three days of action later this month.

“Our focus now is to ensure minimal disruption to services over the days of industrial action.”

A rally will be held in Victoria Square on Friday with a speech by Sir David Crausby MP for Bolton North East. Sir David has been a vocal opponent of wholly-owned subsidiary companies.

UNISON also announced there would be a further three days of strike action if a decision was not reached.

If the additional strikes were to go ahead they would take place October 23 to 25.