Socialist Worker

Strike against the Wigan healthcare selloff

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2605

Workers and their supporters protested against privatisation in Lancashire last month

Workers and their supporters protested against privatisation in Lancashire last month (Pic: Fred Fitton)


The fight to stop outsourcing in Wigan, Wrightington and Leigh (WWL) NHS Trust is gaining momentum.

Around 600 hospital workers in the Unison union were set to walk out for 48 hours from Wednesday this week. Workers in the Unite union voted by 81 percent to join them on the picket lines.

Support is pouring in from trade unionists, health campaigners and local Labour Party members. Wigan trades council had called for mass solidarity throughout the walkout on Wednesday and Thursday.

Mary Callaghan, Wigan trades council president, sent workers a message of solidarity. “All delegates understand how you feel,” she said. “And we want you to know that not only ourselves, but the whole town is behind you in this very important dispute to keep your jobs in the NHS.

“The whole of Greater Manchester is focused on the dispute here and the outcome could have a larger impact on the North West.”

The hospital workers are low-paid porters, cleaners, security staff and other support workers.

Transfer

Bosses want to transfer their jobs into the newly set up WWL Solutions Ltd, one of the “wholly-owned subsidiaries” that manage estates in NHS England.

While owned by NHS trusts—for now—wholly-owned subsidiaries are the latest in a long line of privatisation scams. Dave Lowe, a Unison delegate at Wigan trades council, said, “There is absolutely no reason for non medical staff to be employed by a separate, private company.

“That is unless there is a hidden political and economic agenda to ensure more resources are waylaid to the sort of people that have messed up our railways.”

The immediate aim of wholly-owned subsidiaries is to drive down workers’ wages and terms and conditions. They may be protected for a short period for those who transfer to WWL Solutions—a process known as Tupe. But any new starters will be on worse ones—starting a drive to the bottom. And, while working for a company owned by the NHS, the outsourced workers are no longer on the NHS pay roll.

The lower wage bill will make it more attractive for private companies to swoop in at a later date.

The aim is to bring in private sector figures, make the NHS run like a business, then bring in full blown privatisation. And this is interwoven with a bigger agenda by the Tories and developers to get their hands on valuable NHS-owned land.

Private sector managers are being brought in to lay the groundwork for asset stripping the service.

In the face of this assault the WWL hospital workers are showing it’s possible to fight back. Their Unison and Unite unions should use their fight to launch a national campaign—with strikes at its heart—against outsourcing.

Send messages of solidarity to jean.heyes@wwl.nhs.uk

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