NHS dispute goes on with seven-day strike

WWL chief executive Andrew Foster volunteering as a porter during the last strike
WWL chief executive Andrew Foster volunteering as a porter during the last strike

Staff at the centre of a massive NHS dispute over a controversial subsidiary firm will take part in a seven-day strike.

Unions announced the longest period of industrial action so far in the bid to scrap wholly-owned company WWL Solutions the day hospital employees returned to work after five days on the picket line.

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The ramping up of action shows anger at staff being transferred to the firm remains strong after Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust announced WWL Solutions would go ahead with employees moving over on August 1.

The next Unison and Unite strike will begin at 6am on Tuesday July 17 and last for seven days.

In response to the fresh strikes WWL said it had provided reassurance on the points concerning staff and trade unions.

Unite regional officer Keith Hutson, said: “We are not prepared to allow the jobs of our members to be sold off, which will inevitably lead to job cuts and attacks on the terms and conditions further down the line. There is absolutely no good reason for the NHS trust to be embarking on this course of action.

“Unite is examining whether this flawed and ill-thought out decision is open to legal challenge.

“Our members have been left with no option but to confirm a further phase of strike action from Tuesday 17 July until Friday 20 July and on Monday 23 July.

“Unite will be giving maximum support to our members in the weeks ahead so this wasteful, objectionable and short-sighted proposal goes no further.

“We are calling on the trust to explore other options including staff secondment to protect NHS jobs and services.”

Lizanne Devonport, Unison North West regional organiser, said: “Staff are resolute in their determination to keep the NHS together. The last few days have seen very strong strike action across the Trust’s hospital sites.

“Staff are receiving tremendous support locally and from people who care about the future of the NHS right across the country.

“The Trust has so far ignored the deeply-felt objections to their damaging and divisive plans. They need to come back to the negotiating table urgently to avoid further strike action.”

WWL said it was again extending invitations for alternative proposals but they needed to save the estates and facilities department enough money to head off the threat of going into special measures.

The Trust’s chief executive Andrew Foster said: “We have repeatedly tried to find a way forward that meets the needs of all parties.

“We have asked the unions to list their main concerns and as a Trust responded, giving the strongest assurance we could on each concern.

“We then entered a pause of around 10 weeks, in which we invited alternative proposals that would bring the same benefits.

“The one substantive suggestion made by Unison was to achieve the savings by headcount reduction through natural wastage. The amount of job reductions needed was judged by the board to be unacceptable to staff or patients.

“The board has decided to go ahead with WWL Solutions and preparations are under way.

“We will remain open for one further week for any alternative from any source that gives the same benefits as WWL Solutions, a saving this year of £1.5m while protecting the quality of services.”