Hands Off HRI and other groups protesting in London, 10.10.16

Hands Off HRI and other groups protesting in London, 10.10.16   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Matt Hirst, Huddersfield Socialist Party

Unison will soon be balloting hundreds of health workers at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI) and Calderdale Royal Hospital (CRH) at risk of being moved out of NHS employment and into a ‘wholly owned subsidiary company’ (a form of privatisation where an arm’s-length organisation is set up, at first owned by the NHS).

HRI has recently been saved from closure following a mass campaign where the Socialist Party played a leading role.

Staff affected include porters, housekeepers and domestic and procurement workers. The local NHS trust has said that these moves will represent a saving due to a tax loophole they would be able to exploit.

But as the cleaning staff and kitchen staff at either hospital will tell you, experience shows once they have been transferred out of direct NHS employment, then attacks on workers’ wages and conditions will begin.

New staff that are taken on will likely be employed at lower rates, creating divisions among workers, and they will not have access to the NHS pension scheme.

However this is not just happening in Kirklees. Already this week, staff at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh have walked out on a two-day strike against the same proposals in their hospitals, and it is likely that the ballot will result in strike action at HRI and CRH through meeting the undemocratic levels required under the Tory Trade Union Act 2016. Indeed, earlier this year, Unison held an indicative ballot and the results met what is now required by law.

The ballot opened on 25 May and closes on 14 June. Should the decision to take strike action go ahead, this will be on 5 July, a poignant day as it is the 70th birthday of the NHS.

Huddersfield Socialist Party sends support and solidarity to these workers in their time of struggle.