Union’s ballot on Wigan hospitals reshuffle

Andrew Foster
Andrew Foster

Hospital staff are being asked by a union if they are happy with a controversial health reshuffle and if they would be happy to take strike action.

Unison is holding a consultative ballot over Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust’s decision to switch 900 employees to new subsidiary company WWL Solutions.

Hospital workers including switchboard operators, porters, caterers, transport providers, security staff, cleaners, estates workers and general office employees will all be affected.

Related: Wigan NHS staff face uncertainty over trust's reshuffle

Unison is asking members to submit their views on the switch by Monday February 5.

This is the first stage on the road to industrial action. If there is sufficient concern and unhappiness about WWL Solutions a full industrial action ballot would have to be held with a minimum turnout of 50 per cent for the result to have legal validity.

WWL has tried to reassure employees that there will be little change to their status, with terms, conditions and pensions all protected.

A spokesman last week said: “Numerous similar companies have been established within the NHS and have been proved to be both efficient and effective.

“There is no truth in rumours regarding degradation of terms and conditions or the introduction of zero-hours contracts for current staff, who are covered under TUPE regulations.

“WWL prides itself on good staff engagement and, throughout this process all staff have, and continue to be, communicated with.”

However, there is also considerable concern about the move with alarmed staff saying working conditions in the future are under severe threat.

A number of strongly-worded reactions to hospital bosses’ words have appeared on social media.

Unison has already registered its deep anxiety about the proposals and the staff have been given the full backing of Wigan MP Lisa Nandy who accused WWL of creating a “two-tier workforce”.

The union’s North West regional organiser Sean Gibson said: “This plan is ultimately an attempt to save the trust money by attacking the pay and conditions of people who perform crucial roles in our hospitals.

“Most of the people affected are low-paid, many are women and most live near to where they work.

“The trust’s management is choosing to put at risk the living standards of people who live in the communities that they are supposed to serve. It is a short-sighted plan that is bad for Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh.

“The NHS works best when it is one team. Unison is currently consulting our members about how best to stop these plans.”

The Post also understands that, unusually, its sister paper the Wigan Observer which carried news of the concern about WWL Solutions was unavailable at Wigan Infirmary for visitors to buy.