Health workers win two-year battle against privatisation in Frimley

UNISON members have won the battle to keep their NHS jobs, after threats to transfer workers to a wholly owned subsidiary were made in April 2019

Frimley health branch members on a protest with UNISON placards and flags

UNISON Frimley health branch members are celebrating after emerging triumphant from a two-year battle against privatisation.

Assistant branch secretary Maura Price said: “It’s fantastic news. It’s such a relief for all involved. When I gave the news to a member, she dropped to her knees. People are saying they hadn’t realised what a weight this has been for them to all carry for the past couple of years. We’re all so relieved.”

Ms Price described the Frimley Health Foundation Trust in Surrey as being “a family” and adding that “we need to keep all of our staff in our family, no matter what pay band. Especially given how much support they’ve given patients over COVID-19.”

The battle began in April 2019, when 900 workers across three sites – Frimley Park, Heatherwood and Wexham Park – were told that the trust would be changing estates and facilities into a wholly owned subsidiary.

This would amount to ‘backdoor privatisation’ and would take staff off the NHS Agenda for Change pay structure and could lead to the erosion of their rights, security and conditions at work.

By mid-2019, UNISON organisers had rallied the workforce, held two demonstrations and tripled the membership base. The most powerful moment was a 99.5% ‘yes’ vote for industrial action, which was eventually put on hold when management agreed to pause the transfer plans.

Once COVID-19 hit, trust management placed plans on indefinite hold.

Last week, it became clear that the board had quietly called off the transfer.

Ms Price said: “I only found out by accident. There was no communication from the chief executive, Neil Dardis. I asked him for an update last week and he said that the board had decided not to follow through”.

UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “It will be a huge relief for staff and their families that the trust has finally scrapped its plans to move them into a subco.

“Our members made it clear over the last two years that they wanted to remain working for the NHS they know and love. UNISON will continue to campaign for this form of backdoor privatisation to be stamped out.”