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IT workers feel betrayed by jobs transfer plans

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IT workers at two of the county’s hospitals who are striking over plans to transfer their jobs to a private company feel ‘betrayed’, say union officials.

Glen Burley, chief executive at South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust. Photo: Mark Williamson. H8/3/18/4877. (53133863)
Glen Burley, chief executive at South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust. Photo: Mark Williamson. H8/3/18/4877. (53133863)

Today (Thursday 11th November) is the third of a four-day walk-out by around 60 computer staff at Warwick Hospital and George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton. Some joined picket lines outside both hospitals on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.

The strike continues tomorrow (Friday 12th November), with more walk-outs planned for 23rd and 24th November. The industrial action follows plans by South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust (SWFT) and George Eliot hospital NHS Trust to transfer IT workers to Innovate Healthcare Services, a private subsidiary company known as a ‘subco’, set up by NHS executives.

Once staff are transferred to the new company on 1st December, their NHS employment will end. Unison, which represents the workers, claims the move is “a form of privatisation”. Mike Wilson, regional organiser for Unison, described the mood among strikers as “angry and upset”.

He said: “They feel betrayed and cast aside. These are people who quite deliberately chose to go and work for the NHS because it’s the NHS. They want to be a part of that, to make a difference and to contribute and now they’re being told that they’ve got no choice other than to work for a private company that NHS bosses have set up.”

Wilson said Unison has proposed multiple potential compromises but bosses at the NHS Trusts are “just not paying attention”.

“They’re not entering into any kind of meaningful dialogue about achieving a compromise position, even though we’ve proposed multiple compromises that would allow them to keep the subco, whilst preserving the NHS status of the workforce,” he said.

Unison is due to meet with employers next Thursday (18th November) but hopes of a resolution appear slim. Managers at SWFT set up the subco in June last year, months before they held discussions with staff. It’s thought 150 IT workers will be affected.

Wilson said: “The only right as an employee is to refuse the transfer but if they do that, it’s treated as though they’ve resigned so they get no redundancy pay and no settlement of any sort.

“All things being equal, on 1st December, the transfer will take place and anybody who decides they don’t want to transfer at that point is out of work,” he added.

Glen Burley, chief executive of George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust and South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The purpose of bringing the ICT functions together is to enhance the ability to share best practice, develop skills to strengthen our services, whilst taking advantage of opportunities that would not be possible otherwise.

“It will enable us to invest in our teams and infrastructure and we will also look at growing the workforce to offer services to other public sector organisations and creating new income streams, all of which would be re-invested back into the NHS.”

Burley said all staff will be transferred on their existing terms and conditions.

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