Wigan drug, alcohol and mental health support workers overwhelmingly back strike action

Unison organised the ballot
Unison organised the ballot

Drug, alcohol and mental health support workers in the borough have overwhelmingly voted in favour of going on strike in a dispute over pay.

Every single one of the employees of contractor Addaction who responded to the ballot on taking industrial action said they were willing to head to the picket line.

Workers are furious as they say Addaction has gone back on an agreement last year to bring salaries in line with related roles in the NHS, leaving some frontline staff up to £2,000 short.

Trade union Unison, which organised the ballot, says the 100 per cent approval rate for strike action off a turnout of 87.1 per cent shows clearly how angry Addaction employees are about the way they have been treated.

The union has now piled pressure on Addaction to act and settle the financial arrangements or face the prospect of employees downing tools.

Paddy Cleary, Unison North West regional organiser, said: “The 100 per cent mandate for strike action is a clear indication of the strength of feeling amongst this dedicated group of support workers.

“Staff rightly feel that Addaction has broken their promise about the NHS pay rise.

“Support workers have now gone without a pay rise for two years and are £2,000 out of pocket compared to the NHS rate for the job.

“These support workers provide an excellent service to the local community in Wigan and Leigh, they deserve to be paid the full rate for the job.

“It’s now clear that this group of staff are willing to stick together and take action if Addaction do not see sense and stump up the money they owe.”

A total of 30 workers are involved in the industrial dispute and the staff are responsible for helping more than 100 people in Wigan and Leigh with addiction and mental health problems every day.

Addaction took full control of the substance misuse services from Wigan Council in 2018.

The union now wants pay for the employees to be brought in line with the Agenda for Change remuneration levels which exist in the health service.

Unison will now hold a series of members’ meetings this week which will discuss possible dates for strike action if Addaction does not come to the table with a pay offer.

The balloting process happened over a period of just over a fortnight from the middle of July until the end of last week.

Speaking last month when the ballot on industrial action was initially announced employees described the effect that not taking home the same pay packets as those in the NHS has had on them and their families.

One support worker, who asked not to be named, said: “I agreed to transfer to Addaction because I was assured my NHS pay, leave and pension would be honoured. I feel really let down.

“We work incredibly hard supporting recovering addicts, often in very trying circumstances. We love our job but every year it’s getting harder to get by on our wages.

“The promised pay rise would have made a huge difference. I’d be able to take my children on holiday and wouldn’t feel so worried about whether I’d have enough money left at the end of the month.”