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Big victory for Wigan NHS strike against privatisation
Becci Heagney, North West Socialist Party organiser
In an outstanding example of how privatisation in the NHS is not inevitable, striking workers in Wigan have forced their NHS trust to drop all plans for outsourcing cleaning, catering and domestic services.
Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust were attempting to move staff to a wholly owned subsidiary company called WWL Solutions. However, workers were not willing to accept this step towards privatisation and what it would mean for both their pay and conditions, and patient care.
After a series of strikes, including first a 48-hour strike and then a five-day strike, NHS unions Unison and Unite had announced a seven-day strike starting 17 July.
The strike received huge backing from people both in Wigan and nationally throughout the NHS. Patients, staff and members of the public overwhelmingly support the NHS as a publicly owned and run service and don't want to see further privatisation.
It was announced on 4 July that Wigan Council has stepped in to provide the extra funding to the NHS trust and it has been agreed that all plans for privatisation will no longer go ahead.
This victory highlights that NHS workers are willing to fight to defend jobs, pay and services, where a lead is given. Importantly it shows that when you fight, you can win - and this is something that health unions in other areas and nationally should take stock of.
A national programme of strike action throughout the NHS would be supported and could push back the privatisation agenda, win a decent pay rise for staff, and even bring down this weak Tory government.
It also shows that where there is the will, local government can step in to prevent cuts and privatisation in the NHS.
Labour councils should now come out completely against privatisation and cuts in the NHS, particularly by opposing the 'sustainability and transformation plans' which require local government support.
It's one example of what can be done now, instead of just arguing we need to wait until a future Labour government.
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