Three days of strike action as rehab staff pay dispute goes on

Addaction workers on strike in the pay dispute
Addaction workers on strike in the pay dispute

Three days of strike action by drug and alcohol rehabilitation staff have been announced as a pay dispute shows no sign of ending.

Addaction employees in the borough will once again down tools and head to the picket line for industrial action beginning on Wednesday October 9.

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It is the third strike by staff in Wigan and Leigh since the dispute with the London-based charity over not paying a promised salary increase in line with similar NHS roles began.

Another round of talks with arbitration service Acas this week failed to produce a breakthrough.

And as the biggest strike in the row so far was announced trade union Unison ramped up the pressure on Addaction, accusing its bosses of refusing to make serious attempts to resolve the situation in negotiations and claiming the charity justified failing to pay the increase by saying many employees are on even worse terms and conditions.

Unison North West regional organiser Paddy Cleary said: “It is not fair to mislead and let down former NHS staff, who Addaction are denying a long-overdue pay rise. What's more, it is morally wrong for a charity to attempt to level-down the pay and conditions of staff in order to get away with paying everybody the least they possibly can.

“These drug and alcohol workers perform a valuable public service and Addaction rewards them by paying low wages and using zero-hours contracts. The first step for Addaction must be to engage meaningfully on how this dispute can be resolved.

“This problem is not going to disappear. Staff have voted 100 per cent to take strike action and feel very strongly that Addaction should pay them what they are due.”

Addaction support worker and Unison rep Paul Almond said: “We are determined to see this through. We are very upset about how we have been treated and we will continue to take action until this matter is resolved.”

A total of 30 staff who previously worked for the NHS are involved in the dispute.

They were told by local managers when switching from the health services to being Addaction employees that NHS pay rises would be honoured, but the one introduced in April 2018 has not been given to them.

So far three days of strike action in two separate rounds of protest have been held by employees at the Coops Building in Wigan town centre and Kennedy House on Brunswick Avenue in Leigh.

MPs have also given their support to the workers.

Wigan parliamentary representative Lisa Nandy said: "Supporting people to overcome drug and alcohol addiction is an incredibly tough job and makes a difference for every single one of us in Wigan.

“Addaction’s employees deserve the pay settlement they were promised when they moved from the NHS to Addaction and I am determined to stand with them and with UNISON to make sure they get it.”

Addaction has responded to Unison's claims about its pay arrangements and promised to keep working to end the strikes.

A spokesperson said: "As a charity, we’re committed to providing the best possible support for people who use our treatment services, whilst also providing our staff with a fair wage and good working conditions. This is true for all our services, from Cornwall to Wigan, to the north of Scotland.

“In the face of limited funding this can be a tough balance to strike, so we understand and empathise with the concerns expressed by our colleagues in Wigan and we're doing our best to find a way forward together. We are currently in conversation with Unison and our focus in the coming weeks is to keep talking.

“We’re committed to trying to work through the issues in a way that is fair and sustainable for our staff, the people who use our services and the local community.”