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Hospital staff suspend strike action over pay contracts

Staff at Pinderfields Hospital will not be striking next week as originally planned.
Staff at Pinderfields Hospital will not be striking next week as originally planned.

A strike by hospital staff in response to plans to remove them from the NHS payroll has been suspended.

Workers at the Mid Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust, which runs Pinderfields, Pontefract and Dewsbury hospitals, were set to take industrial action on Monday, July 2.

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The strike had been called in a row over plans to transfer the contracts of hundreds of workers to a wholly owned subsidiary (WOS) company, where they would no longer have access to NHS terms and conditions.

Cleaners, canteen staff, IT staff and maintenance workers would all be affected. The union says the move is a step towards privatisation, as the company could be sold off by the trust at any time.

However, Monday’s strike will now not go ahead after the hospital bosses said they would try to give those affected access to NHS pension pots.

The trust has written to the Department of Health for permission on the matter.

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UNISON branch secretary Adrian O’Malley said negotiations had moved a step forward, but the union remained strongly opposed to the WOS.

He said: “We had a meeting with the trust on Monday and they asked us what it would take to call off the strike.

“We’ve told them our concerns about the pensions issues, and we think they’ve been told that there’s no reason why staff couldn’t have access to the pension scheme.

“We have suspended the strike, but if they don’t get permission then it will be back on.”

The trust has consistently defended the plans, saying it will help them make savings and that they want to work with unions on the new model.

However, Wakefield MP Mary Creagh has also intervened in the row and has called on health bosses to drop the plans.

She said: “The drive to cut costs in the NHS has led to plans for a wholly owned subsidiary at Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust. That is the wrong decision and will only make matters worse in the short and medium term. They should drop this idea.”

Angela Wilkinson, interim director of workforce and organisational development, at the trust, said: “The trust has recently held constructive meetings with UNISON to discuss measures to avoid industrial action regarding the creation of a WOS.

“We are pleased that the action planned for July 2 has now been formally suspended for one month.

“We will continue to meet with UNISON and other trade union representatives to continue a dialogue.

“We have made a formal request to the Secretary of State for Health to proceed with this and it could be some time before we receive an outcome.”