UNISON members are campaigning to stop their jobs being outsourced from Chesterfield Royal Hospital Foundation, with a key decision on their futures being made at a board meeting next week (Wednesday 25 July).
The board at the hospital are meeting to decide whether to transfer services such as estates and facilities to a wholly owned subsidiary company, a move that could mean staff losing the benefits and protections of working for the NHS.
A similar situation recently occurred at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Foundation Trust, until a UNISON campaign meant the trust dropped their plans to transfer more than 900 workers including porters, cleaners and catering staff to a subsidiary company.
This trend in ‘subco’ companies comes as the NHS continues to face unprecedented financial pressures. Some trusts in England are seeking to save money by creating wholly owned subsidiary companies to deliver services.
Trusts claim that money will be saved by exploiting a tax loophole, but the major savings will come from employing new staff on non-NHS terms and conditions with no access to the NHS Pension Scheme.
UNISON believes this is a form of backdoor privatisation, with direct consequences for healthcare staff and potentially damaging ramifications for the NHS in England. It also ignores the fact that all staff are part of one NHS team that delivers for patients and that it works best when it is pulling together for the same organisation.
UNISON’s head of health Sara Gorton said: “This worrying trend is caused by the government’s under-funding of the NHS. Trusts are seeking to save money by creating wholly owned subsidiary companies but it is the workers and patients who lose out as a result. As we saw in Wigan, NHS staff will fight being outsourced, and they will win.”
Staff members at Chesterfield will hand a petition to the board at their meeting on Wednesday. Pam Shepherd, a UNISON regional organiser in the area, said: “We are asking the trust board to listen to its staff, service users, local people and local politicians who all don’t want to see the NHS further fragmented. These are your loyal employees, listen to what they have to say and reject the proposal to set up a wholly owned subsidiary.”