Nearly 600 hospital caterers, cleaners, porters other staff at three hospitals in Lancashire are planning to strike for 48-hours later this month over plans to transfer their jobs from an NHS trust to a private company it plans to set up as a wholly owned subsidiary.
The proposed action on 23 and 24 May follows an 89% vote for strike action in a ballot which saw 73% of eligible members cast a vote.
The ballot came after the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh foundation trust announced plans to outsource the NHS workers’ jobs to a new company called WWL Solutions.
The members rejected those plans and asked for a strike ballot by 93%, on a 79% turn-out, in a consultative vote in February.
But despite that, the trust pushed ahead with plans to set up the company – though it says it has delayed a final decision until June.
UNISON North West regional organiser Sean Gibson said after this week’s vote: “Providing quality care is a team effort and it is hugely important to staff that they are all part of the NHS team.
“Our members feel very strongly that they do not want their employment to be shifted to an outsourced company. They feel so strongly that they are willing to take strike action to stop it.”
Trust management initially argued that setting up a private company to handle estates and facilities at the three hospitals was necessary to save money.
But UNISON points out that a recent staff newsletter quoted trust chief executive Andrew Foster saying it has not only met is financial plan, but recorded a “bottom line” surplus of £8.6m.
“The recent news about the trust’s financial position shows that the outsourcing plan is not necessary,” said Mr Gibson. “Staff are very upset and angry that they have contributed to the success of the trust and are now having their wishes ignored by senior management.”
In the newsletter, Mr Foster thanked all the trust’s staff for their efforts in meeting the financial plan, but Mr Gibson responded: “They don’t want thanks, they just want to be allowed to continue working directly for the NHS.
“A strike now looks very likely. Time is short and the Trust needs to listen to its staff and act now to ditch the WWL Solutions proposal.”