A HOSPITAL worker dubbed Dudley Denise has become the figurehead in a David and Goliath battle for a Covid bonus payout.

Denise Stevens, aged 69,, is one of 450 workers in the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust taking strike action in a dispute with private company Mitie.

Mitie employs non-medical staff at the trust and is refusing to pay the bonus, around £1,600 for staff on the lowest wages.

Ollie Hopkins, West Midlands regional organiser for the Unison trade union, said: “There was a high-profile dispute in the health service last year.

“This resulted in the government sitting down with joint trade unions and coming to a deal that was accepted by the membership which included a percentage increase and a lump sum Covid bonus payment.”

“Mitie paid the percentage increase but they did not pay the lump sum.”

Domestic staff member Denise, who has worked at Russells Hall Hospital for 37 years, was among NHS staff who put their health at risk during the pandemic to keep the hospital working and says it is time Mitie honoured the agreement.

She said: “We were right in the middle of it, it was really bad, we were frightened, the mortuary was absolutely choc-a-block.

“The cases we lost, the porters were having to deal with all of that and that’s been heartbreaking for all of us. 

“We lost a very good friend in Covid, we had a lot of porters that were really ill and ended up in ITU – they survived but were left poorly.”

Mitie says the deal applied to NHS employees only and people employed by private companies were not eligible for the one-off payment.

The company added it is waiting to hear from the government if there will be any subsidy to cover the costs of the payment because it works on low profit margins and is not able to make the payments to its more than 2,000 staff in the UK without support. 

Dudley Denise is up against powerful opposition, Mitie’s chief executive is Phil Bentley, dubbed ‘Miami’ Phil after his time running communications giant Cable and Wireless in Florida.

The company boss is reported to have taken home a paycheck of £5.9m last year but Denise and her fellow Unison and Unite trade union members have a message for him.

She said: “It has been so hard for us all working alongside the trust workers who have had their money. 

“Even consultants have said you should have had that money. 

“Surely they know the way we had to work hard, we got nothing out of this.

“They are making great big profits, they could pay us and if they want it they can have it back off the government.”

Given the chance to speak with Miami Phil, Dudley Denise says her message would be clear: “You keep saying you are a good employer – look after your employees.”

In November 2023 Mitie reported half-year profits of £85m, up 24 percent and is forecasting a profit for the full year of £190m.

The company says it offers industry-leading benefits including free life insurance, free access to GP services for workers and their families plus discounts at more than 100 national retailers.