Last-ditch talks are taking place today in a final effort to avoid Wigan drug and alcohol rehab staff going out on strike in a pay dispute.
Arbitration service Acas will speak to the parties in the row between Addaction and around 30 employees working in the borough who are being represented by trade union Unison.
The staff are poised to walk out on Friday, saying they have been short-changed by Addaction refusing to match NHS pay rates for similar roles.
Ahead of the potential industrial action trade unionists in Wigan have been ramping up the pressure on Addaction, which provides services for Wigan Council, by backing the workers and pointing out this is not the first health service strike in the borough in recent times.
Before that, though, there will be one last effort to come to a satisfactory deal for employees based at Coops Building in Wigan and Kennedy House in Leigh.
Unison North West regional organiser Paddy Cleary said: “We have always been prepared to talk to the employer and have repeatedly attempted to enter into negotiations with Addaction.
“With our members ready to strike on Friday, the employer has agreed to enter into Acas talks at the eleventh hour. We welcome this development and hope that these discussions will put an end to the dispute.
“We hope that Addaction have decided to engage with Acas in order to make good on their long-standing pay promises and that they will commit to the NHS Agenda for Change rate.”
If today’s final talks to avert strike action fail then 31 staff will down tools on Friday.
Wigan Trades Council says this is just the latest in a series of disputes where NHS workers and employees formerly in the health service have had to resort to drastic action to protect working conditions.
A spokesperson for the organisation said: “Right across the country health workers are under attack from both private companies who have, like predators, descended upon the NHS and health services after a quick profit, and from NHS Trusts seeking to undermine conditions of service.
“Now health workers in Wigan are again on the front line. Addaction is a community substance misuse service for young people but bosses have reneged on a promise to treat them like any other NHS worker and pay accordingly.
“They were originally employed directly by the NHS but Addaction is refusing to pay them the nationally-agreed pay rise for NHS staff. This will cost employees as much as £1,000 per year over the course of the three-year pay deal. These workers are an absolutely vital part of Wigan’s workforce, highly valued for the work they do in the town and our communities but not, it seems, by their employers.”