Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Parking Fee Plan Fury

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Parking Fee Plan Fury

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jane Picken

Angry hospital staff are protesting at plans to charge them for parking.

Condemned as a tax on going to work, the charges are planned for all sites managed by the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust, which include Wansbeck General Hospital in Ashington, and North Tyneside General Hospital in North Shields.

The Chronicle has learned that staff, from cleaners to consultants, could each be paying up to pounds 260 a year for parking.

They will only be allowed discounts if they sign up for payments to be made straight from their salaries.

One furious staff member told the Chronicle in an anonymous letter: "The trust wishes to charge its staff for the privilege of turning up to work."

He or she added: "It is also virtual blackmail that if staff are willing to comply with these abhorrent charges by arranging direct salary deductions, they can actually qualify for a reduction in the parking rate charged."

The trust, which came under fire last week for telling patients their meals would be rationed to save money, sent a special staff briefing letter out on Thursday.

It reads: "Part of the cost improvement proposals for this year included a proposal to introduce car parking charges for all staff who use the trust's parking facilities.

"The cost improvement programme was developed to find methods of controlling costs that safeguard overall employment."

The letter also said trust officials want to introduce the discounted charges ( which will be pounds 5 per week for staff working more than 18 hours a week and pounds 2.50 for those working fewer than this ( by December 1.

Alternatively, staff can pay pounds 130 or pounds 260 on a yearly basis. These amounts can be reduced further if staff opt for the payments to be made by a "salary sacrifice scheme".

Keith Blackburn, Unison regional officer, said: "We're formally opposing this and we hope staff from the trust's hospitals will as we still deal with some very low-paid people who will not be able to afford this. …

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