Hospital workers to begin six-day strike action from midnight tonight

Members of Unite and Unison at the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust take industrial action over outsourcing
Wrightington Hospital

Members of Unite and Unison at the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust take industrial action over outsourcing

Picture: Alamy

Hundreds of staff at three NHS hospitals are to begin a six-day strike tomorrow in a dispute over outsourcing of services.

Members of Unite at the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust will walk out from Wednesday, while Unison members will strike from Thursday.

Workers including porters, cleaners, catering staff, electricians and plumbers employed at Wrightington Hospital, Wigan’s Royal Albert Edward Infirmary and Leigh Infirmary will take action.

Outsourcing jobs

The trust is proposing that the workers’ jobs will be outsourced to a subsidiary company, WWL Solutions Ltd.

Unite members will strike for 24 hours on Wednesday followed by five days of strike action by both unions from Thursday.

The action is the third so far in the dispute and the trust said while the previous two 48-hour strikes caused minimal disruption to services, it is warning patients to avoid attending the hospitals unless an emergency.

RCN congress this year condemned the practice of outsourcing, which takes staff outside of Agenda for Change terms, meaning they are unable to join the NHS pension scheme.

‘Loyal and dedicated workers’

Commenting ahead of the action, Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said: ‘These loyal and dedicated workers undertake a crucial role in keeping hospitals open and properly functioning. They are a core part of the NHS family and their jobs should not be hived off.’

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘There's no good reason for this outsourcing. It’s bad for patients and bad for the staff that support them.

‘As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday, it deserves better than being salami-sliced into different organisations.

‘The NHS is the envy of the world, but it won’t stay that way by breaking up its staff and services.’

A trust statement said: 'We would like to reassure our patients, staff and the public that business continuity plans are being carried out to ensure that our services will continue to run as smoothly and safely as possible during the six days of industrial action.

Disruption to services

‘However, some disruption to services is likely. Shops and dining rooms will be closed on all sites, but there will be general catering provisions available in vending machines and snack trollies will be made available for staff, patients and visitors.

‘Should treatment be required, we would encourage, where possible, patients to think about using alternative services such as GPs, walk-in centres, 111, and pharmacies unless life threatening or in an emergency.’

The trust's board will discuss setting up a wholly owned subsidiary at a meeting on Wednesday.

NHS foundation trusts can create subsidiary companies to provide patient or support services under powers granted to them by the Health and Social Care Act 2003.

Even if staff’s current terms and conditions and working arrangements are protected by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006, there are concerns that such protection may be only short term.

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