Over 1,000 health workers in the Home Counties plan to stage a two-day walkout against privatisation from Monday of next week.
Unison, Unite and GMB union members at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust are fighting plans to transfer their jobs to a “wholly-owned subsidiary”.
This would be a privately-registered company whose sole shareholder—for now—is the NHS trust.
But the move would allow bosses to drive down their pay and terms and conditions as a step towards full-blown privatisation.
The support staff work across three sites at Wexham Park and Heathwood hospitals in Berkshire and Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey.
The action follows large votes for industrial action by workers.
Unison members voted by 99 percent for strikes on a 72 percent turnout and GMB members voted by 94 percent for strikes on a 67 percent turnout.
Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said bosses must now “ensure these workers remain directly employed by the NHS”.
“Patients rely on good quality cleaning, catering and portering staff who play a vital role in providing excellent care,” she said.
“But these hard-working hospital employees are some of the lowest paid in the health service, feel targeted by their employer and don’t deserve to have their NHS employment status ripped away.
“They’ve demonstrated they’ll resist any attempts to privatise their jobs, and the ball is now firmly in the employer’s court.”
Fight paused in Tayside
Scottish pharmacy workers went back to work on Monday after over two months on indefinite strike over pay.
The Unite union members returned after Tayside NHS bosses refused to grant an extension to the 12-week period of fully protected industrial action.
A successful strike ballot means bosses cannot use “selective dismissal” against strikers during the first 12 weeks of action.
If workers stay out beyond the 12 weeks, they lose some legal protections.
Other groups of strikers, such as the National Gallery workers who fought privatisation, stayed out beyond 12 weeks.
Unite has said it will reballot the Tayside workers and call further strikes in December unless bosses resolve their long-running dispute.
Workers want regrading of their jobs.