NHS hospital staff to strike over ‘back door privatisation’ in Bradford | Society

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More than 300 hospital staff in Bradford are to strike this week in a dispute over what union leaders have described as the “back door privatisation” of the NHS.

Porters, cleaners and security staff voted to take industrial action over plans by Bradford teaching hospitals NHS trust to set up a new company to run the facilities.

The union, Unison, said the move was part of the creeping privatisation of the NHS and would strip as many as 600 workers of the protections they have as health service employees.

The seven-day strike, which began on Monday morning, comes amid mounting calls for the Conservative government to scrap legislation that has led to the widespread privatisation of healthcare.

The Bradford proposals centre on its estates, facilities and clinical engineering services and do not include the privatisation of patient care. The trust has denied it is privatising services, insisting the new company will be “entirely owned and operated for and by the NHS”.

The trust’s hospitals include Bradford Royal infirmary and St Luke’s hospital. Unison balloted its 313 affected members when the plans were unveiled in May and 97% voted for strike action.

Natalie Ratcliffe, a regional organiser for Unison, said members were angry at the proposals because they meant they would no longer be employed within the NHS.

The trust said it would guarantee that affected staff kept their existing pay and conditions for 25 years – a promise Unison said its members believed could be “easily broken”.

Ratcliffe said: “We have urged the trust to scrap the plans, or at least shelve them, as there is likely to be a general election this year or next and the policy of establishing wholly owned subsidiaries is likely to be dropped.

“Other trusts in the UK have dropped or shelved their plans, but the Bradford trust seems hell-bent on imposing this company on our members and they are sufficiently angry and worried about it to have decided to go on strike.”

The trust said arrangements had been made to “ensure that patient safety and levels of care” were not compromised by the industrial action and that essential services, such as emergency and urgent surgery, would continue as normal.

It advised patients to attend appointments as normal and added: “There will be picket lines outside the entrances to the trust’s hospitals and we expect that pickets will behave in a responsible way; they will not be allowed to obstruct or intimidate patients and visitors and you will be able to gain admission to all our hospitals as normal.”

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