ANOTHER strike by workers at Amersham and Wycombe hospitals begins at Midday.

The cleaners, porters and catering staff at the hospitals are involved in a dispute with Medirest, a private firm contracted by Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the hospitals.

It is the third time industrial action has been called in recent months.

Staff will strike today, tomorrow, and on Monday and Tuesday.

Medirest and the trust both insisted patients' safety remained "paramount".

Unison has said its workers “just want be on level terms with everyone else” - citing the full sick pay received by workers at Stoke Mandeville under a different contractor.

Medirest and the Trust say that they have not got the money to pay for the terms and conditions that these workers should have received in 2006.

But Steve Bell Branch Secretary at Bucks Health Branch Unison said the Trust received the money from the last Government and Medirest made £114 million in profits in the UK last year according to their annual report.

He said: “Just like the banks avoiding paying their tax these large employers avoid paying their workers what’s due.”

The hospitals' Medirest staff only get statutory sick pay of £79.15 per week. 'In-house' NHS staff, by contrast get full pay for at least one month when sick.

NHS sick pay also kicks in immediately, whereas statutory sick pay - the legal minimum – is only payable after three days of illness.

Mr Bell said: “These workers have been working patiently since 2006 and we want an answer.

"Are they going to continue by refusing to meet the demands? The workers are solid and are just seeking an answer how this pay and this situation is going to be resolved.

"It’s all in the trust’s and Medirest’s hands.

“It’s down to them to sit round the table with the unions and resolve the situation.

“We hope that can be done as soon as possible.”

He warned: “But we’re not going away.”

Previously Medirest said funds have not been made available by the trust to meet the terms being demanded.

Katya Heath, spokesman for Medirest, said: “We are naturally disappointed with this decision.

"During strike action we will ensure that we maintain the high standards of cleaning, safety and patient dining expected from Medirest and the Trust.

Discussions aimed at finding a "satisfactory conclusion for all parties" are ongoing and the firm said added it has "good relationships" with both UNISON and the Trust.

Trust spokesman Sarah Hills said: “We continue to work closely with Medirest, who provide facility management services including cleaning and catering, during the planned strike by their staff, to ensure that our hospitals remain clean and safe."