Staff at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, who face being transferred to a wholly owned subsidiary (WOS) designed to avoid paying tax, will strike in protest for a further three days this month.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Thursday 5 December ) that its estates’ management, equipment maintenance, catering, portering, procurement and security staff, numbering about 90, will strike from 07.00 on Wednesday 18 December for 72 hours.

This latest wave of industrial action follows two days of strike action last month.

Unite will be coordinating  the strike action with the GMB union – altogether about 1,000 staff at Frimley Park Hospital, Camberley; Wexham Park Hospital, Slough; and Heatherwood Hospital, Ascot are affected by the trust’s plans.

Unite said that it had evidence that the trust is intent on pushing ahead with its flawed business model, as it is issuing new uniforms without the distinctive NHS logo on the clothing, which previously had been the case.

Unite regional officer Jesika Parmar said: “The latest bout of strike action this month demonstrates the continuing depth of anger at what we believe is biggest proposed wholly owned subsidiary in England so far, which could adversely affect up to a 1,000 employees at the trust.

“Our members have voted overwhelmingly that they have no wish to be employed by a WOS designed to avoid paying tax. They are concerned that their pay and employment conditions will be seriously eroded by such a plan.

“Already the trust is issuing new uniforms without the NHS logo on the clothing, which previously had been the case – it is clear that the trust bosses don’t see this new venture as being part of the NHS, which is disgraceful.

“The trust is also attempting to undermine the strike by employing expensive agency staff.

“We are calling on the trust’s board to ditch these misguided and flawed plans. We are seeking an undertaking from the trust that it will agree to continue to employ all our members and not transfer them to a WOS.

“We remain strongly against the formation of these entities which, we believe, could lead to a Pandora’s box of Carillion-type meltdowns – with knock-on effects for patient services and jobs.”

The Frimley trust provides NHS hospital services for about 900,000 people across Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey and south Buckinghamshire. Unite has 220 members at the trust and only balloted those directly affected by the WOS.

Unite members voted by 92 per cent to strike.

Notes.

Unite has waged an extensive campaign against these wholly owned subsidiaries as they could lead to job losses and salami slicing of service provision.

Unite is concerned that trusts are forming these wholly owned subsidiary companies in England so that they can register for VAT exemption and compete on a level playing field with commercial competitors who register for VAT exemption for their work in the NHS, when NHS trusts can’t.

There were more than 30 such subsidiaries in England in 2018.

The Department of Health and Social Care announced last year that it was consulting on this issue. The consultation ended in November 2018 and the requirements that trusts and foundations have to meet to create wholly owned subsidiaries were tightened up.

This also included a condition to consult stakeholders, such as staff and the wider community. A number of trusts have already decided to abandon plans to set up such a subsidiary.

Email: shaun.noble@unitetheunion.org

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.

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