Strike off: Union says privatisation threat is "removed" after hospital abandons staffing plan

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A union claims the "threat of privatisation has been removed" after a Yorkshire hospital trust abandoned plans to transfer hundreds of workers into a private company.

Strike action was planned to take place at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs hospitals in Wakefield, Pontefract and Dewsbury, over three days next week in a dispute over plans to move around 900 non-medical staff to an outside company. .

The plan sparked fierce opposition from the union Unison and local MPs, who urged the Trust to ditch the proposal for a “wholly-owned subsidiary” (WOS) company to take over some services.

Fears were raised that while current workers would have their wages and holiday entitlements protected, newly recruited staff could be employed on worse terms and conditions.

Unison branch secretary Adrian O'Malley said stewards were told in a meeting this morning that the plan had been dropped.

He said: "Our members are delighted that the threat of privatization has been removed.

"They have shown they were prepared to fight to maintain their NHS employment. We are part of the NHS team and now that the threat of the WOS has been removed will remain part of the NHS team"

A message from Unison to its members said Mark Bradon, director of estates, facilities and IMT and the Trust, had confirmed all work "both for now and in the future", had stopped.

It said: "The Trust has recognised the strength of feeling of our members and our determination to fight to keep our NHS contracts.
"We responded by calling off the three day strike planned for 20th August.

"By standing together we have succeeded in stopping the privatisation of hundreds of jobs and services."

Mr Braden said: “We are pleased to confirm that we have been notified by Unison that the planned strike action around this issue has been called off.
“Our Trust Board has made the decision to cease all work on the formation of a Wholly Owned Subsidiary. Despite the uncertainty, our staff have continued to provide a quality
service to patients, staff and visitors, for which the Trust board is very grateful.”

Last year Labour’s Shadow health spokesperson Lord Hunt told the Yorkshire Post a similar plan to run facilities, estates and purchasing at Keighley Hospital via a private company was “privatisation by the backdoor”

Lord Hunt described such plans as a “bit of a scam” to avoid paying VAT.

“Anything that an individual trust may gain on VAT is likely to be clawed back nationally and the allocation less to each trust in the future,” he said. “There’s no magic money tree that suddenly produces savings from the tax person. I understand that they are under great financial pressure but the real answer is that we have to fund the NHS properly.”