Socialist Worker

Health workers in north west England resist outsourcing threat to hospitals

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2591

Health workers have fought the outsourcers in the NHS - such as these strikers who took on Serco last year

Health workers have fought the outsourcers in the NHS - such as these strikers who took on Serco last year (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Former Labour MP Neil Turner has brushed aside low-paid hospital workers’ concerns over outsourcing.

Turner is chairman of WWL Solutions Ltd, the company planning to take over support services at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust.

Nearly 900 cleaners, porters, security guards and other workers are set to be moved to the firm in May.

WLL is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the hospital—for now. But it’s listed at Companies’ House and its creation opens the door to privatisation.

Sean Gibson is the Unison union’s North West organiser. He said, “The bosses’ plans are designed to cut costs at the expense of staff and could lead to back door privatisation.

“We don’t want the likes of a Carillion or a Capita to be getting more involved in our NHS.”

Turner said he doesn’t “see the difference between this and Wigan and Leigh Homes”.

The similarity must be striking for Turner, who was appointed to Wigan and Leigh Homes’ board of directors after quitting parliament in 2010.

This arm’s length management organisation (Almo) was set up by the local authority to undermine council housing. It has faced criticism in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Labour-run Wigan council was one of the first local authorities to set up an Almo.

But councillors are now debating taking it back in-house after a report showed this would save around £1 million a year.

Fiasco

Health workers and patients should be spared the outsourcing fiasco inflicted on tenants.

But workers are fighting back already—and gaining support from trade unionists and Labour Party members.

Unison members voted by 93 percent on a 79 percent turnout for strikes in a consultative ballot and will now move to a full ballot for industrial action.

And former porter and Labour councillor George Davies has promised to join workers on the picket line.

The tide is turning against privatisation in the NHS in the wake of the Carillion and Capita scandals.

The Labour Party’s leadership shifted its demands to the left with hints that a Labour government would support wholesale renationalising.

The party’s manifesto only promised to make the NHS the “preferred bidder” for contracts.

But it will take a fight to hold Labour to renationalisation—and we can’t wait until the 2022 general election to defend the NHS.

It will take battles now—such as the one in Wigan—to stop privateers leeching money from the NHS.

Unison said “consultative ballots are taking place in a number of NHS trusts over plans to create wholly owned subsidiaries”.

This should be used to launch a national campaign of strikes against privatisation.

Every trade unionist and health campaigner should build solidarity for the Wigan workers and be prepared to join them on the picket line.

 


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