This week Estates, Facilities and Procurement staff employed by Bradford Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust are taking industrial action. The seven day strike is in opposition to the creation of a ‘wholly owned subsidiaries’ (WOS) company by the Trust and the TUPE transfer of their jobs to a new company outside of the NHS.
Like some NHS Trusts, Bradford Teaching Hospitals is setting up a WOS company to save costs and avoid paying VAT. A staff member whose employment is transferred to the new company will no longer be an NHS employee. This could see staff employed outside the nationally agreed Agenda for Change (AFC) terms and conditions and not given access to the NHS pension scheme.
In other words, former NHS services will continue in some form but will be ‘off the books’.
These proposals are putting short-term financial gain before services and staff. Inevitably they will lead to a further fragmentation of local NHS services and to a decline of service standards as well as a potential increase in service costs over the long term.
Naturally, RCN Yorkshire and the Humber region is very concerned about the Trust’s proposals. Whilst they don’t directly affect our members, we do understand the decision by Unison colleagues to take action. These changes will have a long-term and negative impact on estates, facilities and procurement and the services they provide.
Hospitals heavily rely on cleaners, porters, maintenance and facilities staff to enable nursing and clinical staff to care for patients effectively and efficiently and these staff deserve the same working conditions as any others.
At RCN Congress in 2018 members voted overwhelmingly to oppose transfers of this nature on the grounds that they could create a two-tier workforce in the NHS, with some of the lowest paid members of staff being pushed onto less rewarding contracts outside of the usual terms and conditions.
As this dispute starts, we have issued advice on the situation to our members at Bradford Teaching Hospitals. At the same time, we’ve written to the Trust Chief Executive and publicly called on the Trust to scrap its decision to set up a WOS.
If you have any concerns about this issue or would like to know more about what the RCN is doing where you work then please do get in touch.