Hospital staff in Wigan could be on the picket line within weeks after overwhelmingly voting for strike action over shifting jobs to a new company.
An enormous 89 per cent of those who responded to Unison’s formal ballot on the creation of subsidiary company WWL Solutions were in favour of industrial action, with a turnout of 73 per cent.
As the result, which was announced yesterday, was gathered in a formal vote it now gives the unions legal powers to begin arranging for NHS staff to down tools in protest.
Strikes could now be held as soon as next month as staff used the vote to show their fury at plans to move almost 900 jobs, including porters, switchboard operators, caterers and cleaners, to the new firm.
Attempts by senior bosses at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust to allay fears and assure those affected that working conditions and rights would not be changed have comprehensively failed.
Sean Gibson, Unison’s North West regional organiser, said: “Staff feel very strongly about the value of being employed by the NHS. Catering staff, cleaners and porters all want to stay part of the NHS team.
“Trust management needs to act now. Their outsourcing proposal is simply unacceptable to the vast majority of our members. Unless they drop this plan it is likely that a strike will take place later this month.”
The Wigan Post understands union officials will meet WWL management next week and plans for strikes could begin almost straight away if agreements on the way forward cannot be reached.
Employees have received the full backing of politicians at both national and local level, with Wigan MP Lisa Nandy repeatedly saying she is right behind them and calling on the Trust to drop its plans for what she says could lead to a two-tier NHS workforce
Ms Nandy will join union leaders in ramping up the pressure further on Saturday when protesters will ask the public to sign a petition against WWL Solutions outside the Moon Under Water in Wigan town centre between 10.30am and noon.
A spokesman for WWL said: “The trust is deeply disappointed that UNISON members have voted for strike action over the trust’s proposal to transfer staff into WWL Solutions, a subsidiary company wholly owned by the trust.
"All staff set to TUPE transfer have been assured that their current terms and conditions will be protected for the 25-year life of the contract, mirroring NHS Agenda for Change.
"The creation of subsidiary companies within the NHS has grown in recent times as a way of protecting services and staff, whilst at the same time allowing trusts to remain financially sustainable.”
NHS Providers state that in many cases subsidiary companies “are an alternative to outsourcing services to the private sector.”
At WWL we are committed to listening to the views of our staff and are currently in a “time-out” period during which we are encouraging any possible alternative ideas to be put forward.