More hospital strikes threatened by union

Pontefract General Infirmary / Pontefract Hospital
Pontefract General Infirmary / Pontefract Hospital

UNION bosses are threatening more strike action at Pontefract and Pinderfields Hospitals after medical secretaries were given a Christmas Eve deadline to sign up to pay cuts of up to £2,700 per year.

Unison has already held four days of strike action at Pontefract, Pinderfields and Dewsbury Hospitals in the dispute with Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

The trust wants to cut the pay of admin and clerical staff by between £1,500 and £2,700 a year, as part of its bid to make £24m in government-imposed savings, on top of a £26m deficit.

However, medical secretaries received letters from the trust asking them to agree to the pay cut by December 24.

Union chiefs are also angry about the trust’s continued use of management consultants Ernst and Young.

Adrian O’Malley, Unison branch secretary, said since December 2011 the trust had paid the firm £3.3m.

He added: “In the very month hundreds of our members were taking strike action against cuts in their pay, the trust handed over another £240,000 to Ernst and Young, and £420,000 the month before.

“Ernst and Young says the trust’s financial position means that pay cuts must be made, but the money it proposes to save in pay cuts in one year has been given to Ernst and Young in two months.

“The £3.3m it has given Ernst and Young is equivalent to five years’ savings it will make from cutting our members’ pay.”

Mr O’Malley added: “We are not prepared to sit back and have our pay decimated while the trust hands over millions to a multi-national company. We call on the trust to withdraw the pay cuts or face further strike action in the new year.”

Graham Briggs, Mid Yorkshire’s director of human resources, said a two-week phase of consultation on pay concluded on Christmas Eve but no decisions had been made yet and the trust will try and work with the unions.

Mr Briggs said: “We are now considering the issues raised through individual conversations and will confirm our intentions in the New Year.

“Wherever possible we always prefer to reach agreement with staff about any planned changes.”

Robert Chadwick, Mid Yorkshire’s director of finance, said Ernst and Young provided invaluable support and expertise to the trust as it faced a major financial challenge.

Mr Chadwick added: “To compare the costs of Ernst and Young against a small aspect of this wide-ranging long-term plan is misleading and inappropriate.”

Staff at Pontefract Hospital held three days of strike action back in November last year.

Unions Unison and Unite both took the industrial action over proposed job losses and pay cuts.

The action followed a one-day walk-out on November 1.

Around 260 staff joined picket lines and a rally at Wakefield Town Hall.