York NHS staff vote for subco strike

NHS staff in York are to hold a 48-hour strike over a proposal to transfer them to a wholly-owned subsidiary (subco) designed to avoid paying tax.

Unite balloted its more than 200 estates and maintenance members employed by York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for industrial action over plans to transfer them to a subco.

The 48 hour strike will run from 6am on September 27 until 6am on September 29 after members voted 92% for strike action and by 91% for industrial action short of a strike.

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.

Unite lead officer for health in Yorkshire Chris Daly said: “We have received a very impressive mandate from our members for industrial action and, as a result, they will strike for 48 hours between 27-29 September.

“The vote showed that our members wish to remain delivering vital public services – they are not prepared to let that public sector ethos slip away.

“If there is an emergency during the week of industrial action, our members will, of course, respond in a responsible fashion and put patient safety first.

“We are still seeking an undertaking from York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust that it agrees to continue to employ all our members and not transfer them to this new subsidiary with all the negative connotations that will flow from that decision.

“We hope today’s ballot result concentrates the management’s minds and we can sit down for constructive talks before industrial action commences. We call upon the trust to rethink its flawed proposed business model.

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

“Our members consider that the identity of their employer is a condition of their contract of employment and do not wish that being changed unilaterally, as is proposed in this case.

“They have a strong desire to remain employed by the trust and not to be employed by this subsidiary – York Teaching Hospital Facilities Management LLP – which has been set up with the purpose to avoid tax.”

The Department of Health and Social Care announced recently that it was consulting on this issue with a view to strengthen ‘central oversight’ of wholly owned subsidiaries by asking all NHS trusts to report to them via NHS Improvement of their intention to set one up.

Recently, two trusts – University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, and the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust – backed down on their plans for a wholly owned subsidiary, following pressure from health unions.

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