Wholly Owned Subsidiary Companies

Back to all Motions

2018 National Delegate Conference
1 January 2018

Conference is alarmed at the spread of new NHS arm length companies being set up in England. Potentially employing thousands of staff these companies seek to exploit a VAT loophole to reduce their operating costs. Though owned by local NHS trusts they in future could bring in cheap labour and deny pension scheme access to new starters.

In the Yorkshire & Humberside region, NHS Hospital Trusts in Harrogate, South and West Yorkshire are currently pursuing a policy of creating their own private companies to carry out their estates and facilities work on a contractual basis. The companies are known as either SPV’s (Special Purpose Vehicles) or WOC’s (Wholly Owned subsidiary Companies). We are aware that these companies are being set up all over the country.

It appears that the driver for these companies is cost savings. No claims have been made that services will be improved. To the contrary we believe that the services will fragment and the quality of care will be compromised.

Our members are to be TUPE’d into the WOC’s and we believe that they will be vulnerable to attacks on their terms and conditions, with new staff being employed on inferior terms and conditions where sick pay, holidays and pensions are slashed to the bare minimum, thus creating a two tier workforce.

It is the creation of this two tier workforce and the fragmentation of our NHS which makes this an issue for all of us rather than just the health care service group. All the evidence shows that a two tier workforce with the associated fragmentation of the workforce has a negative impact on the quality of the care provided to us as patients.

However, Conference’s gravest concern is that these wholly owned subsidiary companies could easily be sold off to the highest bidder and lead to even greater privatisation of NHS services for UK citizens.

The chaos we are seeing in our hospitals has been created by the choices made by a very vindictive Tory government that wants to break up the NHS. This is yet a further step towards this goal.

These newly created companies will only bring further chaos and disaster with them. When we saw cleaners outsourced in many hospitals we saw MRSA outbreaks going through the roof. These WOC companies further down the line could potentially be sold to the likes of Virgin.

Conference salutes UNISON members in Wigan, Yeovil, Gloucester, Bristol, Harrogate and Huddersfield, to name but a few, who have been fighting these proposals this year. They have been driven by what they have seen of publicly owned arms length companies operating already in Local Government, social care, and education across the UK and other privatisation vehicles.

Conference reaffirms its fundamental support for public services provided by public servants on a not-for profit basis and based on social need.

Conference believes that this is an attack on the whole ethos of our NHS and that it will lead to further break up of the NHS.

Conference calls upon the National Executive Council to:

1) Work with the Service Group and the Labour Link and other appropriate parts of the union to oppose these moves at every level;

2) Campaign nationally against new NHS arms length companies as a real privatisation threat;

3) Campaign to close the VAT tax loophole to raise funds for public services;

4) Work with health service group in supporting local negotiations;

5) Support local branches involved in campaigns.