This is deeply worrying for anyone who has been trying to stop the Tories’ ongoing privatisation of the NHS – and it is happening all over the country, not just in Leeds.
In spite of moves like this, there are still some people who believe the Conservatives are not running a privatisation scheme and that their activities actually provide good value for money.
What will it take to convince people of the harm the Tories are causing?
Leeds East Labour MP Richard Burgon is demanding a full public consultation on plans by Leeds Teaching Hospitals to set up a private company to employ NHS staff.
Like other NHS trusts in the region, management wants to transfer 2,300 staff such as porters, cleaners, housekeepers, clinical engineers, procurement and supplies to a “wholly owned subsidiary company”.
But UNISON is campaigning against the plans because they will create a two-tier workforce as new staff coming into the service will start on worse pay and conditions than existing staff.
Mr Burgon said he wanted a full public consultation so that NHS staff and the people of Leeds can have their say on the privatisation plans.
He said: “NHS Trusts in Airedale and Harrogate – where similar privatisation plans are proposed – have chosen to ignore the views of their staff who have grave concerns about their pay and working conditions in the future.
“I was appalled to see a bank porter’s job advertised at £8 an hour with basic pension and no unsocial hours payment by the new wholly owned company at Airedale Hospital. This is exactly what NHS staff are so worried about.
“As a former employment lawyer I know that the TUPE regulations designed to protect pay and conditions if jobs are transferred can be easily changed for “economic, technical or organisational” reasons.
“The creation of a two-tier workforce in large hospitals such as St James’s and Pinderfields could replicate the worst excesses of the private sector, with zero hours contracts similar to those advertised at Airedale, including cuts to holiday entitlements and sick pay. It would make it harder to recruit and retain staff which will inevitably have a negative impact on standards of care for the people of Leeds.
“I believe these plans should be scrapped and I am calling on the Trust to consult widely with their staff and with the public so the dangers of the proposed subsidiary company are widely known.”
One of the reasons NHS Trusts want to set up separate companies to employ staff is a loophole which allows subsidiary companies to reclaim VAT – something which NHS Trusts are not allowed to do.
But Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathon Ashworth has written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt demanding that the tax loophole be closed and the privatisation plans dropped.
Richard Burgon said: “We could see industrial action across the whole of West Yorkshire if Trusts plough ahead with their plans.
“NHS staff have been subjected to years of frozen pay and lost thousands of pounds in income and now they are being threatened with privatisation. This obviously damages morale and I am doing everything I can to persuade Leeds Teaching Hospitals to listen to their staff and the public and drop this disastrous plan.
“I shall be making my views known to the Hospital’s bosses before the Trust Board meets on March 29.”
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