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BIRMINGHAM mental health workers are set to strike against the privatisation of their jobs and the “salami slicing” of patient services.
Around 150 employees at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust are set to strike from June 24 to 26, their unions told the Star today.
Staff are opposing their Trust’s plans to move them from direct employment by the NHS to working for Summerhill Services Limited.
The porters, housekeepers, assistants and maintenance staff at the hospital will be moved to the company in July. They are concerned about the effect this will have on their employment, pay and pensions.
There are also fears that the NHS Trust has formed Summerhill Services as a way to compete with commercial health service competitors that are gaining contracts in the NHS.
Businesses in the NHS can register for VAT exemption while NHS Trusts cannot. As a result staff are worried that this action may trigger the privatisation of the NHS in Birmingham as a whole.
The strike will be a coordinated joint action between Unite and Unison. The unions have both claimed that Summerhill Services has refused to guarantee the rights of NHS workers under their employment.
Unite regional officer Frank Keogh said: “This unpalatable transfer will strip our members of their status as NHS employees and is a part of the accelerating backdoor privatisation of the health service.
“Ultimately it will lead to salami-slicing of patient services.”
Unison branch secretary Andy Chaffer said: “Taking strike action is not an easy decision for any of us but we need to stand up for our jobs and our patients.
“The staff are very angry at this proposal as they are proud to be NHS workers and want to remain part of a service they love.
“When times are hard and budget cuts bite, it’s people who have real pride in their jobs that make the difference.
“That level of commitment can’t be plotted on a spreadsheet but it does make all the difference to the patients.
“Just how much is that worth to the trust?”
Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust have been approached for comment.
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