Drug and alcohol support staff return to picket line at start of three-day strike as pay dispute escalates

Addaction employees on the picket line
Addaction employees on the picket line

Drug and alcohol rehab workers in the borough are back on the picket line today at the start of a three-day strike in a pay row.

The industrial action marks a further escalation in the dispute between employees in Wigan and Leigh and charity Addaction.

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This is the third time staff have walked out and is also the longest strike so far.

The dispute surrounds what employees say are broken promises by Addaction not to ensure salaries kept up with pay rises for similar roles within the NHS.

Three rounds of talks with arbitration service Acas have been held with no breakthrough achieved.

Around 30 staff are involved and picket lines will be in place this week outside the Coops Building in Wigan and Kennedy House in Leigh.

There will also be a public rally held in Wigan town centre at noon on Friday.

Employees and trade union Unison say there is considerable local sympathy for the staff and they are also being backed by MPs in the borough.

Unison North West regional organiser Paddy Cleary said: “Addaction have let down their hard-working staff and are now withholding a long-overdue pay rise from support workers who deliver vital services to the community in Wigan and Leigh.

“Addaction bosses have attended three rounds of talks with no intention of resolving the dispute.

“The employer’s defence seems to be that the promised pay rise would be ‘unfair’ on the group of staff it pays even less than those who used to be employed by the NHS.

“There is a simple solution to that problem, which is to pay all Addaction staff the full NHS rate for the job.

“Public service workers who have been outsourced should not be out-of-pocket. The people of Wigan and Leigh will not accept a London-based organisation driving down pay and working conditions in their local area. If that is Addaction’s intention then they should hand the contract back to the council.”

Unison rep and Addaction support worker Kathryn Herbert said: “We did not plan to go on strike and we did not envisage taking six days of action, but we voted unanimously in favour of striking because we know that we have been treated unfairly.”

A spokesperson for Addaction said: “As a charity, we’re committed to providing the best possible support for people who use our treatment services, while also providing our staff with a fair wage and good working conditions.

“We understand and empathise with the concerns expressed by our colleagues in Wigan and we’re doing our best to find a way forward together.”We are currently in conversation with Unison and our focus in the coming weeks is to keep talking.”

The strikers have been supported throughout by trade unionists at Wigan Trades Council, which has again promised to back them on the front line this week.

A spokesperson said: "‘The strikes this week are a significant escalation of the dispute in the face of an intransigent employer which portrays itself as a charity but behaves in a

way that is anything but charitable. And the support now being shown to strikers indicates that the Trades Council is not alone in this opinion.

"We will be supporting the strikers for as long as the dispute lasts and we will support all initiatives that give justice and respect to Addaction workers for the important and vital role they play in our communities."