"WE'RE not invisible anymore!" announced a hospital porter on the steps of Bolton Town Hall.

Tina Travers was speaking during a rally on the second day of strike action by Royal Bolton Hospital workers.

She was one of several who spoke to the disgruntled staff gathered in Victoria Square to protest their pay.

UNISON members employed by iFM Bolton (a wholly-owned subsidiary company of the hospital trust), provide cleaning, portering, security and catering services to the hospital and say they are being denied NHS rates of pay.

'We're the invisible staff' ­— Royal Bolton Hospital workers out on strike

The dispute has been ongoing for several months and yesterday was the second day of strike action by around 330 members of staff.

Around 200 people gathered in Victoria Square to listen to speeches in the rain as Storm Callum whipped through.

Regional secretary for UNISON north west Kevan Nelson declared that the Bolton workers were leading the charge on this issue.

Mr Nelson said: "You're leading the way in the country for getting justice for outsourced NHS workers.

"You're the first to go on strike to get the benefits of that national grievance, you won't be the last ­— You're leading the way."

Bolton North East Labour MP Sir David Crausby also attended the rally and spoke to the crowd.

Afterwards he said: "It's not just about the money. Why should some people be treated differently? Why don't they contract doctors out? The reason they don't contract doctors is because doctors wouldn't put up with it.

"They NHS should employ people. They all contribute to it keeping hospitals clean and moving people around and doing jobs that are absolutely necessary and should be on the same pay scales. It's an outrage."

Joanne Finch, a domestic from Wigan also spoke at the rally. Workers there recently went on strike and successfully prevented their employer from creating a wholly-owned subsidiary company of the kind currently employing staff at Royal Bolton Hospital.

She urged the striking workers to "stick together just as you are now" and said: "I believe that everybody who works in the NHS should be paid the proper NHS pay rates."

Former Bolton West Labour MP Julie Hilling told the crowd: "You are not goods and chattels to be sold to the lowest bidder.

"You have proved you are not goods and chattels that will stand by and let your terms and conditions be ripped to shreds, you need a massive congratulations for the way you have stood up for your jobs and the jobs of people that come beyond you as well."

The strike ends this morning at 7am and iFM Bolton workers will return to work.

They are asking their employer to increase the pay for the lowest paid workers from £7.83 an hour to £8.92 an hour, rising to £9.89 over two years. This would mirror the band one pay for NHS workers in other hospitals.

Three more days of strike action have already been announced for October 23 to 25.

Bolton NHS Foundation Trust reassured patients when the strike began that "as near to normal a service as possible" would be provided.

Andy Ennis, Chief Operating Officer, said: “Effective contingency plans meant there was minimal disruption to the services normally provided to patients and the wider Bolton community.”