UNISON members running Wigan and Leigh’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation service have suspended their strike action at We Are With You (formerly Addaction).
The service was taken over by the charity in April 2018, having been run by Wigan council, with workers who were part of the NHS.
But members have been in dispute with We Are With You after it reneged on promises to pay NHS rates to staff whose roles were transferred.
The dispute is a long-running one, with 11 days of strike action in 2019. A recent five-day strike came to an end at the beginning of March, shortly before the coronavirus outbreak hit.
But now says UNISON rep and support worker Paul Almond, “our campaign can wait until we get through the current coronavirus situation”.
He says the workers are “all still determined to see this through and get the pay rise that was promised to us”.
But “we are very committed to this service. Many of us have been working in it for a long time and we know we are key workers, that is our belief and that of our employers.
“We understand the need to protect the vulnerable service users now more than ever and that has been the rationale behind our decision to suspend further action.”
Addaction strikers with general secretary Dave Prentis and local MP Angela Rayner
A staff survey in 2019 showed that 70% of 30 employees who responded wouldn’t be happy with the standard of care if it was provided for a family member or friend.
“There simply are not enough staff to provide the services that Addaction have promised as part of this contract,” said one, adding that staff were working at “dangerous and unsustainable levels”.
Despite the claims of squeezed budgets We Are With You is splashing out more than £140,000 on rebranding after changing its name from Addaction. That is more than enough to resolve the dispute.
Before the recent five-day strike, UNISON North West regional organiser Paddy Cleary said: “The organisation may have changed its name to We Are With You, but for employees a more appropriate name is ‘We Won’t Pay You’.
“Staff are so demoralised by management’s refusal to pay them the NHS rates, they have no option but to take industrial action.
“To discover bosses are splashing out on a costly rebrand rather than paying them fairly is incredibly galling.”
You can support the dispute by donating to the strike fund either via bank transfer to Unity Bank, sort code 60 83 01, account number 20244354, or by cheque, payable to ‘UNISON Wigan Metropolitan Branch hardship fund’ and posted to:
UNISON Branch Office
Wigan Life Centre
Wigan WN1 1NH.