Rallying call for support as Wigan rehab staff prepare for further strike action

Unison regional organiser Paddy Cleary and Kathryn Herbert, a drug and alcohol worker and Unison rep, on the picket line last month
Unison regional organiser Paddy Cleary and Kathryn Herbert, a drug and alcohol worker and Unison rep, on the picket line last month

Wigan's MP and trade unionists have given their support to strikers due to return to the picket line tomorrow.

Addaction employees in Wigan and Leigh will walk out for 48 hours in an ongoing pay dispute.

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It is the second strike involving members of trade union Unison in a row over the national charity failing to honour agreements to match NHS pay rises for the same jobs.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy has thrown her support behind the striking workers, saying: “Supporting people to overcome drug and alcohol addiction is an incredibly tough job and makes a difference for every single one of us in Wigan.

“Addaction’s employees deserve the pay settlement they were promised when they moved from the NHS to Addaction and I am determined to stand with them and with Unison to make sure they get it.”

Wigan Trades Council has also called on people to lend their support.

A spokesman said: “Addaction workers were once a part of the NHS and received NHS wages and conditions. Yet now, despite doing the same work as they did before, they have been denied the benefits NHS staff are entitled to. This is an attack not just on Addaction workers, it is an attack on all health workers: A case of Addaction leading a race to the bottom for Wigan’s health workers.”

He urged trade unionists to visit picket lines, invite strikers to their meetings and hold collections for their hardship fund.

He said: “We need to unite around supporting this strike, sending a clear message to employers and any government that we won’t stand aside and allow them to wreck our public services and those who work in them.

“Picket lines will be on from 7.30am at Coops Building, Dorning Street, Wigan and Kennedy House, Brunswick Avenue, Leigh.”

A total of 31 drug and alcohol support staff downed tools last month and talks were held last week with arbitration service Acas.

A third round of Acas talks will take place on Tuesday, September 24 to find an end to the dispute.

Unison North West regional manager Kevin Lucas said: “It’s simply wrong that Addaction bosses take public money from our local council and yet refuse to pay staff the proper rate for the job.

“Many workers turned down the opportunity to take jobs within the health service as they were assured they would continue to receive full NHS pay when they transferred to Addaction. The employer refused to honour this commitment at the first opportunity.

“These committed staff remain steadfast in their demand for the pay rise repeatedly promised by Addaction. Meanwhile, their employer delays and obfuscates at every turn, showing no desire to resolve what is ultimately a simple issue.

“We hope it proves third time lucky at Acas and Addaction arrives ready to pay staff what they’re owed. This is the only way to end the ongoing strike.”

Kathryn Herbert, a drug and alcohol worker and Unison rep, said: “We are incredibly disappointed and feel very let down.

“We didn’t plan to strike but the lack of empathy shown towards us has actually strengthened our resolve and leaves us with no alternative but to continue our strike action for fair pay.”

A spokesman for Addaction said: “We understand 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. We’re committed to trying to work through the issues in a way that is fair and sustainable for everyone.”