By Chris Cornell / HealthKent & CanterburyWelfare / 0 Comments

Labour activists join Unite picket lines

Estates staff at three Kent hospitals have this week gone on strike over this month over plans to transfer them to a wholly owned subsidiary to avoid paying tax. Unite, the country’s largest union, announced the action which affects the local Kent & Canterbury last month and our activists have been showing their solidarity by joining the pickets in Canterbury and Margate.

Unite balloted its more than 50 estates’ members employed by East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust and they voted by 85 per cent for strike action over plans to transfer them to a wholly owned subsidiary called 2together Support Solutions.

The Labour Party shares Unite’s concerns that the creation of wholly owned subsidiaries could lead to job losses and salami slicing of service provision. Unite regional officer Michael Cott said: “We are strongly against the formation of these entities which, we believe, could lead to a Pandora’s Box of Carillion-type meltdowns – with the adverse knock-on effects on patient services and jobs.

“They have a strong desire to remain employed by the trust and not to be employed by the 2together Support Solutions subsidiary which has been set up with the purpose to avoid tax. Our members in Kent fear that such a move will create a two-tier workforce with new staff on inferior conditions and this, in turn, will increase the problems of recruiting and retaining new staff.”

Rory Heap, Chair of Kent Unite Community and an activist in our Whitstable branch said of the protest, “The East Kent health trust has refused to negotiate on this issue. This is a real threat to a publicly owned NHS and its encouraging to see support on our picket lines this week.”

Recently, two trusts – University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, and the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust – backed down on their plans for a wholly owned subsidiary, following pressure from health unions.