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NHS workers will assemble tomorrow to protest against a plan by health bosses to set up a subsidiary company to avoid tax.
Trade union Unite has warned that such arrangements could spark a “Pandora’s Box of dozens of Carillion-type meltdowns,” referring to the outsourcing and construction giant that went into liquidation last month.
Trade unions say Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s proposal to internally outsource 750 staff in estates and sterile services is a bid for VAT exemption.
This would also mean that the staff would no longer be directly employed by the NHS.
Unite, Unison and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), along with the Gloucester and Cheltenham trade councils, will hold a demo outside the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital in Gloucester from noon.
The unions say there is a new trend of NHS trusts forming wholly owned subsidiary companies. This means they can compete with privateers that can register for VAT-exempt NHS work while NHS trusts cannot.
Unite regional officer Nick Bailey said: “These proposals are being sold to staff as an alternative to privatisation when, in fact, it is the same unpalatable dish.
“About 750 staff will no longer be part of the NHS and face the same threats to their employment and terms and conditions that other outsourced staff have already experienced. ”
He said the proposals would create “a two-tier workforce” and would “erode morale” among staff.
“The trust board will be making a final decision on this proposal at the end of this month, following the two-month consultation period,” he added.
“We are calling on them to listen to their staff, 800 of whom have already signed a petition against this misguided and flawed plan.”
Unite wrote to the health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt last month, calling for an immediate moratorium on further private limited companies being established by NHS trusts in England.
A spokesman for the trust’s management said they were “concerned about the language used by the union and the impact that might have on staff who are already understandably anxious” over the changes.
“The comparison between NHS trusts establishing their own companies and privatisation demonstrates a lack of understanding of the model being considered,” the spokesman said.
“The board [of the trust] is clear that, by creating solutions to the challenges facing estates and facilities services within our trust, this would avoid any imperative to consider privatisation as a means to realising financial and non-financial benefits.”
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