Drug and alcohol support workers in the North West are on the last day of a 10-day strike today (Friday), as they continue their fight to force their employer, national charity We Are With You (formerly Addaction), to give them a promised pay rise.
The industrial action involves 30 rehabilitation staff from Wigan and Leigh in Greater Manchester.
Yesterday, an ad van visited the Foundry Chambers and Gray’s Inn in London in order to get the message across to Lord Carlile, the Chair of We Are With You’s board of trustees. It then went on to We Are With You’s headquarters in the capital, where it was met by a group of striking workers. Finally, it stopped outside the Houses of Parliament.
The 10-day strike is the latest stage in the long-running dispute with the charity, which took over the running of Wigan Council’s drug and alcohol support contract from the NHS several years ago.
The rehab workers are angry that the charity has reneged on a pledge to pay them the same rates as staff employed in the NHS doing similar jobs.
When NHS staff received a wage rise as part of a three-year pay deal in 2018, the striking workers didn’t see their pay go up. As a result, the staff are each missing out on around £1,000 a year.
By 2023, when the charity’s contract with Wigan Council ends, staff will have lost more than £230,000 in wages in total, an average of £7,870 each, the union added.
Yet the charity has been able to find £140,000 to rebrand from Addaction – more than enough money to have settled the dispute.
Wigan MP and shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy (above) has thrown her support behind the rehab staff and joined them at a virtual rally on 25 September. In addition, socially distanced pickets have been on duty throughout the strike.
Since the year-long dispute began, the charity has refused to recognise the employees’ right to be represented by a union, preferring to force them to negotiate individually.
But the Central Arbitration Committee – the body that decides whether a workplace can be unionised – recently rejected this approach and said that UNISON must be allowed to represent all staff at the charity.
UNISON North West regional organiser Paddy Cleary said: “We Are With You has done everything it can to grind staff down and deny them the pay rise promised. Refusing to recognise the union shows how desperate the charity is to duck scrutiny.
“The charity has reneged on a pay pledge, refused to negotiate in good faith and used every trick in the book to break the resolve of staff, but the workers will continue to push for justice.
“To end the strike, We Are With You must keep its promise to match NHS rates and increase the support workers’ salaries. It’s the least staff deserve after supporting vulnerable people throughout the pandemic.”
The Wigan branch and North West Region are asking for donations from branches to the strikers’ hardship fund.
You can donate via bank transfer to:
Sort Code: 60 83 01
Account Number: 20244354
Or send a cheque made payable to ‘UNISON Wigan Metropolitan Branch hardship fund’ to:
UNISON Branch Office
Wigan Life Centre
Wigan WN1 1NH