HOSPITAL workers could go on strike again, a union has warned.

In a letter to members, Unison Bradford Health Branch claims the Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has refused to back down over its plans to create a wholly owned subsidiary company. 

Some staff at the Trust, which includes the Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Luke's Hospital, went on strike last week over the plans. 

Jobs including porters, domestics and security staff would be transferred to the new company in money-saving measures, which have caused serious concerns over pensions and employment rights.

The Trust has said the change could save it up to £28 million over the next five years, including £13 million of savings on VAT, and that workers’ rights will be protected and carried across to the new company, Bradford Healthcare Facilities Management Ltd.

The plans have been criticised as being a form of “privatisation by the backdoor”.

The letter from Unison states: "Following a week of solid industrial action by estates and facility staff, the Trust has refused to cease or even postpone its plans to transfer staff into the private company Bradford facility services.

"The Trust stated in the meeting that they wished to look into ways  of giving more assurance around terms and conditions but accepted that as yet they could not make guarantees that would legally prevent future changes to terms by lawfully terminating contracts and offering inferior ones.

"Unison informed the Trust that it will now seek to take more sustained action in view of the Trust's response.

"We are therefore in the process of issuing a new industrial action notice, with aim of taking a continuing and indefinite programme of action subject to regular democratic members meetings to ensure there is a broad consensus.

"In the meantime we are in the process of taking steps to ensure the strike is financially supported across the union and labour movement as a whole."

A Go Fund Me page has been started to support "the lowest paid NHS frontline staff" affected and says: "The union has submitted a notice of further sustained industrial action which will mean continual and indefinite strike action to begin in the next two weeks."

John Holden, Acting Chief Executive of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We continue to engage with UNISON and its members within our Estates and Facilities department and remain positive that we can move forward with setting up the new NHS owned company.

“The Trust believes this is the only model which in the long-term, set against the constant need to make savings, allows us to grow the business, protect our staff and continue to support patient care.

“It will be the sole owner of the company – there is no external shareholder. We will never “sell off” the company; it will always be 100% owned by the NHS. 

“We have listened to concerns from staff and union colleagues. All staff will have their terms and conditions protected by legislation at the time they transfer, on 1 October 2019. In addition, we have guaranteed to protect their terms and conditions for as long as the new company has the contract with the Trust, which is 25 years.  

“Staff will also have their membership of the NHS pension scheme protected; we will protect their terms and conditions if they get promoted, or increase or reduce their hours, and we will look to match the annual NHS pay awards to our existing staff.

“We agree that we should not have a two-tier workforce. That’s why we have also taken an additional step, going above and beyond what any subsidiary company in the region is doing, by offering terms and conditions for new starters that are comparable to the Agenda for Change ones that existing staff will transfer on.

“We understand why setting up this company has been a controversial decision, but we are committed to do the right thing for our staff and patients.”