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NHS workers fight back for pay justice

Issue 2748
A little rain doesnt deter the fighthback
A little rain doesn’t deter the fighthback (Pic: Unison North West)

The scourge of NHS wholly-owned subsidiary companies continues to threaten some of Britain’s lowest paid workers.

These private firms are set up by NHS trusts, usually in a bid to employ workers on lower rates of pay than if they were employed directly.

Unions have in recent years fought many battles against outsourcing. Now a new one is brewing in Airedale, West Yorkshire.

Facilities management company AGH Solutions employs porters, domestics, security and catering staff.

Those who were transferred to the “wholly-owned” firm from the NHS have most of their pay and conditions ­protected for 25 years, but more recent staff are on far less.


Their hourly rates are at least £1 an hour lower than the NHS’s Agenda for Change pay scale. And they receive no unsocial hours payments for evenings, nights and weekends.

GMB union rep Joe Wheatley says there is now a “mood of anger” among most AGH staff.

“We’ve won two indicative ballots to reject the company’s pay offer,” he told Socialist Worker. “Not only have we got more than 50 percent of our members voting, but over 80 percent have voted to reject.

“People have strongly ­indicated they are prepared to take industrial action.”

The company has ­suggested incorporating its bonus scheme into the hourly pay rate. But the bonus is conditional upon reaching certain targets, such as having a minimal sickness record.

“People are disappointed and angry,” said Joe. “Even those workers on Agenda for Change conditions are being hit.

The GMB plans a third indicative ballot this month and is preparing to escalate its dispute.

Workers who have already faced the threat of wholly-owned subsidiaries by striking, such as those in Lancashire, will be the first to say that action can win.

  • Porters, cleaners, domestics and switchboard staff at Cumberland Infirmary took to the picket lines again last week in a long-running battle to secure unsocial hours payment from the contractor Mitie.
  • Porters at Heartlands hospital in Birmingham struck last week against the fire and rehire tactics of their NHS trust.

The new contracts force workers onto shift patterns that wreck their lives.

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