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Borough hospital strike set to go ahead following last-minute failed talks

The protest is against a move to WWL Solutions
The protest is against a move to WWL Solutions

A hospital walk-out looks set to go ahead as last-minute talks between union members and the NHS trust fail.

Unison and Unite members at Wrightington, Wigan & Leigh Foundation Trust who work in roles including catering, cleaning and portering are set to take strike action for 48 hours on Wednesday, May 23 and Thursday, May 24.

No progress was made at ACAS talks yesterday, with Unison members saying that is the trust continuing to refuse to withdraw its controversial outsourcing plan despite overwhelming staff opposition.

The trust sees their outsourcing plan – involving the creation of a new company called WWL Solutions – as a way of saving money through avoiding VAT liabilities, potentially deploying staff on non-NHS work, and cutting staff costs.

The cleaning staff who are threatened with outsourcing have previously been praised for their efforts in helping the trust win awards for hospital cleanliness.

Nearly 600 Unison members are set to take part in the strike alongside members of the Unite union.

Read more: Second union confirms hospital strike in Wigan
Sean Gibson, UNISON North West Regional Organiser said: “The Trust simply refuses to listen to its staff. The staff want to remain part of the core NHS team – not outsourced to a new company.

“The trust previously offered current staff guarantees about their future terms and conditions. We put this to members but it was overwhelmingly rejected in a ballot.

“Staff just want to stay in the direct employment of the trust. That should not be too much to ask.

“Staff are at their wits’ end with the trust and its refusal to listen. We have been in consultation about these proposals since August 2017 and our members have voted against them at every opportunity and by big margins.

“Staff have been incredibly patient, but they are now prepared to take strike action to try to make the trust listen and withdraw their proposals.”

A national pay rise for all direct employees of the NHS is due to be funded by the Department of Health, but if the Trust were to outsource staff on its originally planned date of June 1 they would receive no extra funding to meet this cost.

Related links: Strike date announced for borough's hospital staff

Mr Gibson added: “The Trust present their delay in implementing this plan as being evidence of their willingness to listen and consult but this is disingenuous.

“They have refused to engage meaningfully throughout this process and have failed even to share the business case for WWL Solutions. We believe that they are hell-bent on pursuing their outsourcing plan and are only delaying until they receive the Department of Health funding.

“When faced with such an intransigent employer that is set on such a damaging course, it is wholly justified for staff to be prepared to take industrial action.”