Wigan rehab staff to strike again as £140k Addaction rebrand sparks fury

Staff at Wigan's drug and alcohol rehabilitation service have condemned a planned six-figure rebrand by charity Addaction as they prepare to strike over a broken pay promise.

Wednesday, 26th February 2020, 2:34 pm
Updated Wednesday, 26th February 2020, 3:45 pm
Addaction, drug and alcohol support workers are jioned by Unison and supporters outside the Coops building, Dorning Street, Wigan, at the start of three-day strike action in October 2019

Nearly 30 rehab workers in Leigh and Wigan are to walk out for five days from tomorrow – (Thursday) 27 February until Wednesday 4 March – in the latest stage of a long-running dispute.

Angry staff say that We Are With You, formerly Addaction, reneged on a promise to ensure their pay – as former NHS employees whose roles were transferred to the charity – kept pace with health service workers doing similar jobs.

Managers claim the charity doesn’t have the funds to pay staff the same rate as NHS workers, the Unison union said. The union also hit out at the £140,000 branding, despite the claims of squeezed budgets.

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Addaction employees were on strike for 11 days in 2019. A January 2020 ballot returned 100% support for more strikes to secure fair pay and address management failings affecting the quality of care clients receive, the union says.

A recent staff survey highlighted concerns about the service Addaction provides, with employees describing it as “dangerous” and waiting times as “atrocious.”

UNISON North West regional organiser Paddy Cleary said: “The organisation may have changed its name to We Are With You, but for employees a more appropriate name is ‘We Won’t Pay You’.

“Staff are so demoralised by management’s refusal to pay them the NHS rates have no option but to take industrial action.

“To discover bosses are splashing out on a costly rebrand rather than paying them fairly is incredibly galling.

“Addaction can’t hide behind fancy rebranding. This issue isn’t going away. A change of name doesn’t change the fact that they must honour the promises they’ve made to staff.”

The implementation of the three-year NHS pay rise from April 2018 would cost Addaction just under £4,100 a worker, totalling around £123,000. Addaction plan to pay a 2% pay rise from 2020 - worth £2,361 a worker – and approximates to a total cost of £71,000.

A spokesperson for drug, alcohol and mental health charity We Are With You, said: “We are proud of our service in Wigan. It is a warm, non-judgemental space which helps people to make healthier choices. Anyone can walk in and will be seen by a member of staff on the same day, with the latest Care Quality Commission report giving the service a rating of ‘Good’.

“We know only a minority of people who need support for drug, alcohol and mental health issues in the UK are actively engaging in treatment. We need to do everything in our power to change this. So, for the past 18 months we have been talking to our staff and the people who use our services across the UK. This research has shown that building a warmer, more personal brand will enable us to help more people overcome the barriers to accessing support. When tested, three times as many people surveyed said they would choose We Are With You compared to Addaction. We hope this will help more people to start a new chapter in their lives.

“The cost of the rebrand is a very small portion of our overall budget, with no local service being impacted by it.”

The Spokesperson went on to discuss the strike action: “We have listened to and understood our staff’s concerns and made a new financial offer which we think is fair and sustainable. We are clearly disappointed the majority of staff have rejected this and further action is going ahead. Separately, we are awarding all staff across the whole charity a 2% salary increase in the next financial year. This is true for all our services, from Cornwall to Wigan, to the north of Scotland.

“We are committed to finding a solution that is fair and sustainable for our staff, clients and the whole community and will continue to work with our staff in Wigan and Leigh to achieve this.”