Ballot open for action over Wigan hospital staff firm move

Hundreds of hospital staff who could be transferred to a controversial new company are voting on whether or not to take industrial action.

Friday, 20th April 2018, 4:33 pm
Updated Friday, 20th April 2018, 4:41 pm
Unison members joined hospital staff and members of the community to protest against 'back door privatisation'

Leading trade union Unison has sent out the ballot papers to NHS employees in the borough asking if they support strikes over the switch to WWL Solutions.

Staff at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust have until May 2 to give their views on being employed by the wholly-owned company.

The idea, which affects a huge array of estates and facilities roles including switchboard operators, porters, cleaners, caterers and transport staff, has so far met with huge disapproval and public demonstrations.

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As staff prepare to receive their papers those opposed to the transfer, who say the law leaves staff no guarantees that terms and conditions will beprotected after an initial period, are ratcheting up the pressure on hospital bosses.

WWL chiefs have repeatedly sought to allay fears by saying it has no wish to water down anyone’s working rights or pensions.

Sean Gibson, Unison regional organiser said: "The industrial action ballot is now open. Unison members who are facing being transferred to WWL Solutions have a chance to stand up to protect their future.

"Unison members have already voted in large numbers to reject the trust’s proposals but this is the most important vote and I encourage all our affected members to take part."

Staff have been backed to the hilt by politicians including Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and former Wigan Infirmary porter Coun George Davies.

A whistleblower opposed to the WWL Solutions move said: "The majority of people are going for strike action and I do believe we will get it.

"This is not a done deal. Lisa Nandy has agreed that the Trust basically cannot guarantee any of the things they say they can.

"This is the last hurdle. We are doing really well, we’ve backed the Trust into a corner. The eyes of the country are now on this Trust because we are the only ones who have stood up to these subsidiary companies."

Ms Nandy has accused WWL of "backdoor privatisation" but the Trust has said it has a long history of resisting private sector involvement in the NHS.