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Unions warn of 'industrial action' against plans by Harrogate NHS Trust

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Members of three joint trade unions working within Harrogate District NHS Foundation Trust (HDFT) have been asked to vote on plans for the Trust to set up a private company.

UNISON, GMB and Unite have launched a consultative ballot in relation to plans by HDFT to set up a wholly owned subsidiary company, to run all of its non-clinical services such as Domestic Services, Portering, Catering, Sterile Services and Estates Management.

The ballot will allow members to vote on whether they wish to accept or reject the proposal by the Trust that they transfer out of the NHS and into the new private company.

Sarah Keig, Area Organiser for UNISON said: “The NHS is truly unique and our members feel passionately that they retain their employment within such a prestigious organisation.

“The joint trade unions had hoped to come to an agreement on this point during consultation but we now realise that this is not the case. As a result we have now moved to a formal dispute, which will include a ballot of members for industrial action up to and including strike action.

“This is an important decision that our members will have to take and we will be holding a number of workplace meetings over the next couple of weeks to give our members the facts surrounding these proposals in order to allow them to make an informed decision.”

Robert Harrison, Chief Operating Officer at HDFT, said the new company would not be a case of outsourcing because it will be wholly-owned by the Trust.

He said: “This approach allows quality and efficiency benefits to be achieved while retaining any financial gains within the NHS for reinvestment in patient care here in Harrogate district.

“We recognise that this is a time of change for staff affected, and we are continuing to closely engage and involve them throughout the process.

“Dialogue with union representatives is continuing as we move through this process, and this is something we value and consider is important to maintain.

"As part of this dialogue, we previously extended the formal consultation period in response to the request for more time and discussion.

“In addition, we are now holding joint staff engagement events with our trade union colleagues for affected staff to attend. The first of these was productive, and another six are scheduled at a variety of times over the next two weeks.

“On transfer, current staff will retain their NHS terms and conditions, or if they prefer, they can choose to move to new terms and conditions offered by the company.

“The new company will be modernising pay, terms and conditions for new staff, which will ensure that it is competitive in the local employment market."

Mr Harrison said the Trust had faced challenges in recruiting to certain estates and facilities roles as nationally-agreed terms and salaries are not competitive.

The new company would be called Harrogate Healthcare Facilities Management Ltd.