Hundreds of hospital staff opposed to their jobs being transferred to a controversial new firm will go on strike for 48 hours later this month.
Unison has given Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust notice that members who work in roles including catering, cleaning and portering will be on strike on Wednesday, May 23 and Thursday, May 24.
The strike will run for 48 hours and nearly 600 members of the trade union are expected to take part.
The action has been prompted by the trust’s proposal to move NHS workers’ jobs to a new company called WWL Solutions.
Last week, an enormous 89 per cent of those who responded to Unison’s formal ballot on the creation of WWL Solutions voted in favour of industrial action, with a turnout of 73 per cent.
Unison claims that while the trust's management say it is a necessary cost-saving initiative, chief executive Andrew Foster had described in a staff newsletter how the trust had met its financial plan for the year and achieved a bottom-line surplus of £8.6m.
Sean Gibson, Unison's North West regional organiser, said: “Providing quality care is a team effort and it is hugely important to staff that they are all part of the NHS team. Our members feel very strongly that they do not want their employment to be shifted to an outsourced company. They feel so strongly that they are willing to take strike action to stop it.
“The recent news about the trust’s financial position shows that the outsourcing plan is not necessary. Staff are very upset and angry that they have contributed to the success of the trust and are now having their wishes ignored by senior management. They don’t want thanks, they just want to be allowed to continue working directly for the NHS.
“A strike now looks very likely. Time is short and the trust needs to listen to its staff and act now to ditch the WWL Solutions proposal.”
Trust chiefs have repeatedly sought to allay fears by saying it has no wish to water down anyone’s working rights or pensions.
A spokesman said they were "deeply disappointed" with the strike action.
She said: "We have always enjoyed an excellent relationship with our staff and trade unions, and our staff survey results are the best in Greater Manchester. We acknowledge and respect that staff have concerns about these proposals and we have taken significant steps to understand and respond to their anxieties.
"Firstly, we have tried hard to meet our staff’s main concerns by offering assurances that they will retain their NHS pay, terms and pensions and remain fully part of the NHS. Secondly, we have suspended the decision-making process until the end of June in order to receive and explore alternatives. Thirdly, we have offered to invite ACAS to help resolve the dispute.
"We would like to reassure our patients, staff and the public that we have contingency plans in place to ensure that our services will continue to run as smoothly and safely as possible during the industrial action. However, some disruption to services is likely, and we will advise patients accordingly. Where possible, we advise patients to use alternatives during industrial action. We are grateful to Unison who have assured us that patient safety will be protected during industrial action by permitting essential staffing levels.
"At WWL, we are committed to listening to the views of our staff and are currently in a ‘time-out’ period during which we are encouraging any possible alternative ideas to be put forward. Our internal survey shows that at this stage, the vast majority of staff believe that WWL Solutions is a better option than outsourcing or cutting staff levels and services for patients. Therefore, it is disconcerting that the unions involved have chosen to proceed with strike action whilst all of the options are still being reviewed and no final decision has been made."