STRUGGLING hospital staff have been slapped with a whopping five per cent increase to park at work - having been offered just a one per cent pay rise.
Workers already have to pay a minimum of £24 a month to park at the university hospitals of Hartlepool and North Tees.
But under new charges brought in today, they face parking fee increases of four per cent higher than their pay offer.
To add further insult, patients and visitors at both hospitals will pay less after an overhaul of parking charges after set rates were brought in rather than hourly fees.
Union chiefs today blasted the move, and said staff are seen as a resource that can be “milked” for financial gain.
And town MP Iain Wright branded the move as “another” financial blow to “hard-working frontline staff”.
The changes come as the Royal College of Nursing union plans to ballot members on industrial action in an ongoing battle with the Government to get nursing staff just a one per cent pay rise.
There are only 1,597 car parking spaces for both staff and visitors across both sites, and 3,250 staff with parking permits.
Under the new system, run by an outside company ParkingEye, staff face being fined up to £70 if they park in visitor spaces.
Hospital bosses have defended the changes saying more spaces have been provided at the North Tees site and it will help save money that can be spent on patients.
A Royal College of Nursing spokesman said: “Many nurses and health care assistants are already struggling to make ends meet after a number of years of below inflation pay settlements and also pay freezes.
“Any increase in their daily costs only exacerbates the problems they are facing, and daily parking costs are one part of that overall picture.
“Both the cost of parking and the lack of sufficient available spaces for both patients and staff is a perennial problem that has not been addressed.”
The union said the combination of increasing costs on frontline staff and not giving all staff a one per cent pay rise gave the impression that NHS staff are seen to be a resource “that can be milked for financial reasons”.
The spokesman added: “Nurses and health care assistants have had enough, and that is why we have launched our What If campaign, calling on nursing staff to be fairly remunerated for the work they do.”
The minimum starting salary for a registered nurse is £21,478.
NHS staff earning between £14,294 and £19,268 will have to pay another three per cent for parking.
Those making anything above that will pay an extra five per cent.
But patients will pay less under the new charges with the first 20 minutes free, followed by £3 for up to 12 hours and £10 for a 28 day pass instead of £25 previously.
A member of staff at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, who did not wish to be named, said: “A lot of staff are quite concerned about the changes which are coming in.
“It sounds to us like it is just a money-maker. In a place like this where people often work above and beyond the hours they are meant to, are they now going to be running off wards to check their car hasn’t been ticketed?
“People in the hospital don’t have a problem with visitors paying less than staff but it looks a as though the extra revenue from the staff will cover the losses on revenue made from the visitors.”
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said: “This will have another impact on the hard working and caring nurses and other staff who have been hit by real term wage cuts over the past four years.
“We want to make sure that nursing is a profession which is attractive and this is another way in which a caring profession has been hit hard.”