Row escalates between union and management in strike at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust

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Striking hospital workers are being threatened with the sack unless they agree to work for less money, a union claims.

A five-day strike started yesterday at the district’s hospitals in an escalating dispute over pay cuts and job losses.

Picket lines were formed outside Pinderfields, Pontefract and Dewsbury hospitals in protest at pay cuts of up to £2,800 and the threat of 70 redundancies.

Admin and clerical staff are taking part in the stoppage, which follows four days of strike action last year at the cash-strapped trust.

Public sector union Unison said staff had received dismissal notices and letters asking them to sign up to lower salaries.

Jim Bell, Unison’s regional organiser, said: “They are banking on people being bullied into accepting new terms. They are using the nuclear option rather than the negotiation option.”

Mid Yorkshire said 162 staff were sent dismissal and re-engagement letters.

Graham Briggs, the trust’s director of HR, said: “Dismissal and re-engagement is perfectly legitimate and normal practice for changing terms and conditions of service when negotiations and consultation have broken down.”

Bosses at Mid Yorkshire have accused the unions of failing to work with them on an alternative proposal to make savings of £500,000 without downgrading salaries.

But Mr Bell said there were too many conditions attached, and Mid Yorkshire had also insisted that Unison worked with private consultancy company Ernst and Young on the alternative proposal.

Unison is furious that the Ernst and Young has been paid more than £3m by Mid Yorkshire to draw up cost-saving plans.

In December alone, the company was paid £425,000.

But Stephen Eames, Mid Yorkshire’s chief executive, said any decision to involve Ernst and Young in the alternative plan would have to be endorsed by the trust board.

He said: “We will not be deploying Ernst and Young.”

Mid Yorkshire said 221 staff took part in the first day of the action, and that services were running as normal.