Health workers across Kent began a five-day strike against a dangerous new form of privatisation on Monday.
The 100 Unite union members at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust are fighting plans to outsource their jobs.
And around 500 Unite members at York Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust were set to walk out for 48 hours on Friday.
Hospital bosses want to set up a wholly-owned subsidiary to run the estates and facilities department.
Their action came after the official NHS Improvement body called on hospital bosses to “pause” plans to set up new wholly-owned subsidiaries. The regulator said it would issue new guidance next month.
It is a sign of the growing pressure on hospital bosses after a series of successful strikes over outsourcing in Wigan.
But the situation in Kent and York shows that workers cannot rely on NHS Improvement.
Bosses at both trusts are ploughing on regardless of the guidance.
Unite regional officer Michael Cott said, “Talks with the East Kent trust management ended with the trust saying it was still going ahead with the transfer.
“That’s despite being made aware of NHS Improvement’s pause edict.”
Unions should ballot for strikes wherever bosses are threatening to set up wholly-owned subsidiaries. Bosses at Chesterfield Royal Hospital said they were “seeking advice” and would “update people as soon as we have the full facts and details”.
Unison union members at the hospital have already backed industrial action in a consultation.
The union should now ballot members for strikes to ramp up the pressure on bosses to drop the plans altogether.
The real aim was shown at the Royal Bolton Hospital where its wholly-owned subsidiary iFM refused to implement the NHS pay deal. While the trust remains the sole shareholder, wholly-owned subsidiaries allow bosses to undermine wages, terms and conditions. Reducing the wage bill makes it a bridgehead for full-blown privatisation.
Unison union members have rejected the pay offer and voted for strikes by 97 percent. They plan a 48-hour strike from 11 October.
Every trade unionist and health campaigner must build solidarity for these crucial fights. And the leaders of the health unions should coordinate action nationally to roll back the tide of privatisation in the NHS.
Anger over pay was expected to erupt at the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) emergency general meeting (EGM) in Birmingham on Friday.
RCN general secretary Janet Davies stepped down at the end of August after union leaders misled members on a shoddy pay deal.
If a vote of no confidence passes at the EGM, the whole leadership of the RCN will resign.
Union leaders claimed that workers would get a 6.5 percent pay rise—3 percent in 2018-19 and 1.7 percent in each of the following two years.
This was supposed to be backdated to 1 April and included in health workers’ pay packets at the end of August.
But hundreds of workers who have not reached the top of their pay bands will receive the pay rise in two stages and lose out on thousands of pounds.
Unison, the largest health union, was at the forefront of selling the deal. General secretary Dave Prentis and the rest of the union apparatus should admit their role and reopen the deal.
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