Wigan and Leigh rehab workers win long-running dispute

We Are With You staff will now be paid in line with NHS pay rates until at least 2022 – and the company has also recognised UNISON

Drug and alcohol support workers employed by We Are With You – formerly Addaction – in Wigan and Leigh have announced the end of a long-running trade dispute with their employer.

Their employer had promised that their pay would keep pace with NHS Agenda for Change pay rates, but the charity failed to keep its promise once NHS staff received a pay rise in 2018.

The victory comes more than 15 months after the first strike, involving 30 rehab workers – many of them UNISON members – who had been transferred from the NHS to We Are With You.

Last week, they formally ended their dispute after agreeing a new settlement.

The campaign included a 26 strike days. The workers received ongoing political support from current and previous local MPs, Lisa Nandy, Yvonne Fovargue and Jo Platt, as well as deputy leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner and shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth.

The workers have secured a no-detriment payment that matches the NHS Agenda for Change three-year pay deal that began in April 2018 and runs until April 2021. This means they will each receive several thousand pounds of back pay. In addition, they have negotiated a further year of protection, ensuring that the rehab workers will not be paid below the current NHS rates until April 2022.

UNISON North West regional organiser Paddy Cleary said: “The determination of this group of key workers must be commended. They continued their struggle when many would have faltered. They knew that they were right and that We Are With You was firmly in the wrong. They have been proven correct.

“This dispute is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when workers stand up together. And beyond pay, the legacy of this struggle is that this group of workers have found their voice and now have the right to negotiate collectively with their employer.

“This will benefit staff and service users alike, as front-line workers are the real experts and make the best decisions for the service.”

In a further boost, they have also won a battle to force their employer We Are With You to recognise UNISON as their trade union. They began their campaign to be represented collectively through UNISON in 2019, but the employer refused to negotiate with the union.

The Central Arbitration Committee recently declared UNISON to be the recognised union for the workers. This decision means that We Are With You will be forced to negotiate with the support workers collectively through UNISON from now on.