NHS workers to strike at three hospitals over privatisation plans

Facilities staff at Wexham Park and Heatherwood hospitals in Berkshire, and at Frimley Park in Surrey have announced dates for strike action, in an escalation of their campaign to stay in the NHS.

Their employer Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust (FHFT) plans to privatise up to 1,000 NHS cleaners, caterers, porters, security and estates staff to a new wholly-owned subsidiary company early next year.

The trust has so far refused to change its plans, so staff feel industrial action is their only option, says UNISON.

UNISON has been campaigning against the creation of subsidiaries UK-wide, believing them to be back-door privatisation of the NHS and a blatant tax-avoidance scheme.

Strike action will take place at all three hospital sites from 7am on Monday 18 November to 6.59am on Wednesday 20 November.

UNISON held a series of public demonstrations against the plans over the summer and early autumn. The union’s campaign has intensified after the trust continually refused to rethink its subsidiary plans, despite growing internal and external opposition.

UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The trust must now take staff concerns seriously and sit down with UNISON to ensure these workers remain directly employed by the NHS.

“Patients rely on good quality cleaning, catering and portering staff who play a vital role in providing excellent care.

“But these hard-working hospital employees are some of the lowest paid in the health service, feel targeted by their employer and don’t deserve to have their NHS employment status ripped away.

“They’ve demonstrated they’ll resist any attempts to privatise their jobs, and the ball is now firmly in the employer’s court to resolve this dispute.”

Notes to editors:
-UNISON’s strike ballot closed on 17 October with 99% of members voting in favour of industrial action on a 72% turnout.
-Labour MP for Slough Tan Dhesi and various Slough borough councillors have voiced concern about the trust’s plans.
-Unite and GMB have announced strike action at the same time as UNISON.
-UNISON is the UK’s largest union, and the largest union at FHFT, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in both the public and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Ryan Slaughter T: 0148 340 6511 M: 07903 855570 E: r.slaughter@unison.co.uk
Sophie Goodchild T: 0207 121 5555 M: 07767 325595 E: s.goodchild@unison.co.uk