A trade union is piling the pressure on hospital chiefs to abandon their plan to move almost 400 HRI staff out of the NHS.
Hospital bosses are proposing to transfer about 380 of their staff employed as cleaners, gardeners, porters and maintenance workers, to a new company.
Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT) says the new firm will be a “wholly owned subsidiary” on the same terms and conditions.
But Unison has fears the move, which is being echoed by hospitals across West Yorkshire, could lead to the company being sold on, losing the staff their NHS pensions, terms and conditions in the process.
It has described the plan as ”privatisation” and a “tax dodge” as it is thought hospitals are doing it to take advantage of VAT loopholes on the cost of purchasing supplies, such as toilet roll.
CHFT has so far refused to give a detailed explanation of the motive behind the plan, saying only that it opens up the potential for it to get “income from new sources”.
Unison has now confirmed that 95% of its members at HRI have backed going on strike to keep their contracts unchanged.
A formal ballot for industrial action has not yet happened but the union is using the result of the ‘indicative ballot’ to raise a formal dispute with CHFT.
Dan Wood, Area Organiser for Unison, said their members would no longer be NHS employees if the plan went ahead and he attacked HRI management’s “secrecy” over the proposal.
“The results of this indicative ballot were not a suprise to us,” he said.
“We know staff are extremely angry with the current proposal, and the determination of the trust to ignore them.
“These are people who believe absolutely in the NHS, and have devoted their lives to working in service.
“They will not accept being transferred to a private company where their terms and conditions of employment – including their pensions – could be affected.
“This will create a two-tier workforce, which would allow for future attacks on staff’s terms and conditions, damage morale, and drive down standards.
“Of course we sympathise that CHFT is not immune to the damage being done to the NHS by chronic and systematic government underfunding, but it is simply not right to shake down your own loyal staff to plug this funding gap.
“The trust has not been able to offer any explanation to us as to why they are acting with such haste and secrecy on this issue.
“It is very worrying.”
CHFT’s, Director of Estates, Lesley Hill, said: “We have engaged and consulted comprehensively with our staff over the last 12 months, including holding information sessions with them during the working day, evenings and at weekends, to make sure everyone affected has the opportunity to understand what we propose and to ask any questions they may have.
“This engagement is ongoing.
“The terms of employment of those members of trust staff who transfer to the wholly owned subsidiary and their pension rights will be protected.
“The new subsidiary will be wholly-owned by the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust and run as a separate, arm’s length company.
“It will be controlled by CHFT and will not have any shareholders apart from CHFT.
“The prime objectives of the subsidiary are to drive improvements in service provision and to improve efficiency.
“All profits it makes will go back into the trust to be invested in frontline clinical services.
“It will be accountable to the CHFT Board for doing so.”