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Weeks of on-call industrial action in NHS dispute

Wigan Infirmary
Wigan Infirmary

Union members at the borough’s hospitals are taking part in a lengthy period of industrial action as part of an ongoing NHS dispute.

Workers for Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust who are represented by Unite have begun nine weeks of refusing to do on-call or weekend work.

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The action involves those charged with maintaining the estates and facilities, including plumbers, electricians and mechanical fitters.

The action began one minute after midnight on June 10 and is currently set to last for up to a couple of months.

The move is all part of the long-running dispute between estates and facilities staff and Trust management over their switch to subsidiary firm WWL Solutions.

Hundreds of disgruntled employees joined the picket lines and took part in a march to the town centre and protest rally last weekend during the second 48-hour walk-out called by Unison and Unite.

Unite’s members are currently not participating in any weekend and evening on-call rotas or doing overtime.

The employer will be able to deal with most problems which crop up during this period using employees who are not in the union or refusing to take part.

However, the union has reassured the public that any extreme or catastrophic breakdowns that could pose a threat to patient safety, for example the simultaneous loss of power from mains and back-up sources in any of the borough’s hospitals, will result in its members putting the dispute on one side until the issue is fixed.

WWL will make a final decision on WWL Solutions on June 27 and pressure is expected to be ratcheted up before then by those opposed to the move.

The Trust's chief executive Andrew Foster praised how well the hospitals had coped during last weekend’s 48-hour strike and said several issues of concern had been raised with Unison.

The strikers secured a coup on Sunday by getting the backing of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn after speaking to him about WWL Solutions at a conference.