Five-day strike planned in NHS dispute

NHS employees on strike over WWL Solutions
NHS employees on strike over WWL Solutions

Health bosses are under pressure to end a major NHS employment dispute after unions announced a five-day strike.

Unison says members at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust will walk out on Thursday June 28 and not return to work until the following Tuesday over plans to create subsidiary company WWL Solutions.

Related: Weeks of on-call industrial action in NHS dispute

The strike is set to begin at 6am the day after the Trust's board makes its final decision on transferring almost 900 estates and facilities employees to the wholly-owned firm.

Unions have already staged two 48-hour walk-outs amid fears over the protection of pay, working conditions and employment rights and worries about hospital workers not being directly employed by the NHS.

Campaigners against WWL Solutions are also promising further industrial action if hospital bosses do not drop the WWL Solutions plan.

Lizanne Devonport, Unison North West regional organiser, said: “Members are absolutely resolute in their determination to see this through. They will not willingly transfer out of the NHS and will do everything they can to stop it.

"This five-day action will be followed by more strike days if the Trust does not move on this issue. Staff will not go quietly and this issue is not going to disappear.”

The campaign has received backing from the public and from senior national and local politicians including the MPs for Wigan, Makerfield and Leigh Lisa Nandy, Jo Platt and Yvonne Fovargue, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Wigan Council's deputy leader and portfolio holder for health and adult social care Coun Keith Cunliffe.

The Trust board meets on June 27 and Unison is trying to gain access to the meeting to ensure the case against WWL Solutions is heard.

The union also responded to comments made by WWL chief executive Andrew Foster that Unison's alternative plan will inevitably lead to job losses.

Ms Devonport said: "There is no Unison proposal for job cuts or redundancies. In an effort to avert the first strike we were willing to discuss other ways for the Trust to save money and other models of service delivery that avoid outsourcing.

"But our willingness to negotiate in good faith has been twisted into a straw man of a proposal that Andrew Foster has put the union’s name to.

“The Trust has been obstructive in failing to provide us with any information about their business case for outsourcing, the alternatives they have considered, or the Trust’s financial position.

"The Trust board needs to commit to keeping their staff in the employ of the NHS, and then enter into a meaningful and informed discussion about the future of these core services.”