Representing and Organising Health Members in the Private and Voluntary Sector

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2011 Health Care Service Group Conference
3 April 2011

Conference notes with concern the growing number of NHS staff and UNISON members transferring to the private and voluntary sector under the Transforming Community Services programme, other NHS re-organisations, and the government’s agenda to shift to any willing provider for patient services.

Lines of accountability will become increasingly blurred which will negatively impact on staff, patients and the public and actively deter UNISON members from raising issues of concern.

Examples already exist which demonstrate a driving down of standards of care; and a worsening of employee terms and conditions when services are transferred to the private and voluntary sector. Unscrupulous employers are seeking to breach TUPE regulations at the point of transfer.

As a consequence, representing members in the private and voluntary sector will become increasingly demanding on UNISON’s resources and its organising strategy.

Branch representatives have, in the main, recognition and facility time from their core employer. They then have great difficulty in continuing to organise and represent members in the same way post transfer.

Branches adopt many and varied methods to accommodate the challenges posed by private and voluntary sector members, including paying expenses to retired or willing reps who can facilitate this duty, if they have any; or by asking the regional office for assistance; or by pulling in extra stints themselves, resulting in long hours worked and resultant stress on their home commitments.

Conference recognises it is not sustainable for casework in these sectors to be undertaken professionally by branch, region or indeed national staff as currently happens in this most fragmented way. Given the growing number of members becoming employed by the private and voluntary sector, a better and consistent approach should be devised and adopted as soon as can be identified.

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to work with the National Executive Council and other relevant Service Groups to:

1.Conduct a review on options available to branches including whether a national branch structure for the private and voluntary sector is viable;

2.Engage the NHS Social Partnership Forum on this matter and explore joint solutions;

3.Explore solutions to these difficulties via the organising structures nationally.

Clearly the Three Company’s project delivers a good resolution to issues of this nature. However the duration and workforce required would be prohibitive to branches in this situation now;

4.Develop and implement a coherent and consistent national strategy that delivers effective services to members transferring to the private and voluntary sector;

5.Support branches to co-ordinate and develop UNISON’s presence and activity in this expanding sector.