NHS staff in the West Midlands went on strike last week for the sixth time in two months over plans to transfer them under the private finance initiative.
Action continues despite a deal offered by the HR department at Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust which guarantees their terms and conditions will be protected for 40 years. The campaign could threaten PFI projects in other hospital trusts.
The 600 strikers – non-clinical staff such as porters, caterers and cleaners – are demanding to be allowed to remain employed by the NHS.
About 100 took their dispute to the Government last week with a protest outside the Department of Health, and also picketed the London office of the firm set to take on the biggest PFI contract.
Director of human resources at the Trust Helen Munro denies that the staff have anything to fear from PFI. “They have no need to worry about their terms and conditions,” said Munro.
“Not only are they protected by Tupe, but we have gone beyond Tupe. What we did was sat around the table and looked at presenting a better deal.”
The deal included a letter from the chief executive of contractor Building and Properties guaranteeing that terms and conditions would be maintained for the 40-year life of the contract.
Munro has joined other staff in efforts to maintain patient care by filling in for striking staff. “People like myself have cleaned toilets and delivered mail,” she said.
She said the Trust had no power to meet union demands. “At the end of the day our organisation can’t change public policy.”
By Noel O’Reilly