Mental health NHS trust staff due to go on strike in bid to halt jobs transfer - The Solihull Observer

Mental health NHS trust staff due to go on strike in bid to halt jobs transfer

Solihull Editorial 18th Jun, 2019 Updated: 18th Jun, 2019   0

CLEANERS, porters and managers at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (BSMHFT) are due to go on strike next week.

The 150 estates and facilities department staff will take to the picket line from June 24 to 26 in a bid to halt plans to transfer their jobs to the ‘private sector’.

Unison, the union, says the jobs are due to be transferred to private company Summerhill Services Ltd from July 1.

Summerhill Services – a wholly owned subsidiary company – was set up by the Trust to cut costs by taking advantage of a tax loophole, according to Unison.

The union claims it doesn’t have to honour future NHS pay agreements, enabling it to alter pay and conditions of the trust’s former staff and employ new staff on inferior terms.

And there are fears this is a form of ‘back-door’ privatisation that’s designed to drive down costs and create a two-tier NHS.

Summerhill Services has refused to guarantee the workers’ existing contracts will be safeguarded, Unison says.

BSMHFT, which set up Summerhill Services in 2012, was granted permission by NHS Improvement to push ahead with its plans in January of this year after plans were halted last September following concerns.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “Staff at BSMHFT chose to work for the NHS because they’re committed to delivering a first-class service to the people of the West Midlands. They take pride in their work and draw strength from being part of one health service team.

“To force them out of the NHS to make tax savings is short-sighted and threatens the smooth running of the Trust. We urge the managers to think again, reverse their decision and put staff and patients ahead of balance sheets.”

A spokesperson for BSMHFT said: “We are aware of the vote by Unison and Unite the Union members within our estates and facilities services to take industrial action in relation to the proposed TUPE transfer of Trust staff to our wholly owned subsidiary Summerhill Services Ltd (SSL), which affects a total of around 150 members of Trust staff.”

It added SSL was established in 2012 and has operated effectively and efficiently with little issue over the past seven years and is accountable to the Trust’s board.

According to the Trust no staff transferred to SSL have had their terms and conditions changed and none will have as a result of this transfer. They will remain on the national Agenda for Change terms and conditions and will retain their NHS pension scheme membership, it adds.

The Trust continued: “The difficult but informed decision to transfer the remainder of the Trust’s estates and facilities staff to SSL was not taken lightly. In doing so, we seek to bring together the best features of both, allowing us to reduce fragmentation and costs and make savings of around £200,000 per year. This will enable us to preserve the ongoing employment of staff as well as exploit enhanced opportunities for innovation and income generation.

“We have some of the highest quality estates and facilities services in the country, as evidenced by the Trust continually achieving outstanding scores in Patient Led Assessments of the Care Environment for our sites across Birmingham and Solihull, whether under Trust or SSL management.

“We have taken a constructive and open approach to engaging with the staff affected and the trade unions and have clarified the above points with them throughout the decision making process.

“The chief executive and director of finance of the Trust have engaged with senior staff representatives since January 2018 to establish their concerns and we have responded to all of these.

“We have robust contingency plans in place in the event of industrial action to minimise any impact on our patients.”

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