Security staff at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading have gone on strike this week.

They are currently locked in a “David and Goliath” pay battle with their employer Kingdom Services Group, Unite the Union said.

The 20 security guards have been on strike since 7am on Monday, December 14, and are expected to continue the strike until 7pm on Friday, December 18.

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Unite regional officer Jesika Parmar said: “What we have here is a ‘David and Goliath’ struggle between our members seeking a pay increase to £12 an hour for security officers and £13.00 an hour for security supervisors against a management which is part of a global organisation with a £100 million turnover.

“Our lowly-paid members provide security 24/7 at the Royal Berkshire Hospital which is on the Covid-19 frontline.

“However, [Kingdom] have refused to engage in meaningful talks over the 2020 pay award and other issues, such as harmonisation of sick pay, and enhanced pay for working nights, weekends and overtime.

“Our members are very reluctant to take industrial action during a national crisis, but strongly feel, as reinforced by the 100 per cent vote in favour of strike action, that the bosses are using coronavirus as an excuse to drive down pay and employment conditions which is totally unacceptable.”

The staff provide security for Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust but are employed by Kingdom and paid around £8.89-£9.89 an hour depending on seniority.

They voted unanimously to take strike action against the security company, which reportedly has a £100 million plus turnover.

Unite said there has been no breakthrough with the negotiations with Kingdom after three days of action, with the last discussions with the company taking place on Tuesday, December 8.

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Ms Parmar added: “Unite’s door is open 24/7 for constructive talks with the management to resolve this ‘David and Goliath’ dispute between our lowly-paid members and this large global company.”

A spokesman for Royal Berkshire Hospiptal NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are sorry that staff, employed by Kingdom Security, have decided to take strike action.

“We want to make it clear that they are not employed by the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust and their dispute is not with the trust.

“The safety and security of our staff, patients and visitors is paramount and we have been assured by Kingdom that they have a comprehensive plan in place to ensure there is security cover across the hospital site and all its adjoining buildings.

“Fully licensed security personnel will be on duty 24 hours a day to provide cover at the hospital, maternity and other nearby trust buildings.

“Hospital services will not be affected and we are asking people who have appointments this week to come into the hospital as normal. It is very important their healthcare is managed and they receive any necessary treatment.”

A spokesman Kingdom Services Group said the company is "disappointed at the decision of UNITE to encourage members to strike".

They added: "Discussions have been ongoing regarding incremental pay rises for several months.

"The decision to proceed with strike action whilst those discussions continue does not seem to benefit the hard working staff at the hospital.

"The entire country is united in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19. At a time when we are negotiating for improved terms for our staff, the financial position of the country cannot be ignored, including the pay freeze on some public sector workers.

"The focus of our directors remains on continuing purposeful dialogue and achieving a positive resolution, despite strike action commencing on December 14.

"At the same time, our operational and people teams are working hard to cooperate with the Union and ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of all staff and hospital patrons."