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NHS support staff balloted over strike action in pay and pensions row

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Support staff at Pinderfields, Pontefract and Dewsbury hospitals will be balloted over strike action in a row over changes to their pay and conditions.

Trade union UNISON said workers had been “insulted” by the Mid Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust’s plan to set up a subsidiary company, to which the contracts of around 900 staff members would be transferred. It means they would no longer be NHS employees.

The union says that the move makes their jobs vulnerable if a private firm bought the company. Health service pay and pensions, which are publicly negotiated at a national level, would no longer apply.

Cleaners, IT specialists, maintenance workers and people who sterilise medical equipment and buy supplies could be affected.

UNISON’s regional branch secretary Adrian O’Malley said: “These plans will create a two tier workforce.

“Any private firm that takes over the subsidiary company would not be bound by the national agreeements that make up NHS terms and conditions.

“It’s an absolute insult to the workforce and to the idea that we are one NHS.

“The trust have not provided us with any reason for how this will make running the hospitals any more efficient.

“The trust has always been very highly rated for cleanliness by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) so the work of support staff can’t be a problem.”

The result of the ballot will be confirmed within days of the voting deadline of June 12.

It has not yet been considered how long any industrial action would last.

In a written response to a question from UNISON about why it was considering the move, the trust said it would improve service delivery and patient experience.

It added that the proposals would deliver an “efficient and cost effective service”.

Jules Preston, chairman of the Mid Yorks Trust board said: “The board took the decision in its last meeting to establish a wholly owned subsidiary (WOS) to provide our estates and facilities services.

“This will have the benefit of us being able to make considerable savings in contribution to our Cost Improvement Plan (CIP).

“However, as we are not a Foundation Trust we need the agreement of the Secretary of State for Health to proceed with this. We will now be making a formal request to proceed with the WOS, but it is possible that it could take several months for a decision to be reached.

“In the meantime we have invited the unions to work with us to explore the various options available to us from a staffing model point of view.

“A briefing has taken place for all those colleagues who could be involved in the WOS should we be given the permission to proceed and executive directors will be holding additional briefing sessions in the coming months.”