Defend the NHS! Stop the wholly-owned subsidiaries in their tracks!

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THERE are Unite and Unison trade union protests in York and Chesterfield today against moves by two NHS trusts to set up wholly-owned subsidiaries to avoid paying tax, to cut jobs and privatise NHS services.

Unite and Unison are waging a campaign against the creation of such subsidiaries which they say will lead to a ‘Pandora’s Box of Carillion-type meltdowns, smashing jobs and service provision.’ The Department of Health and Social Care announced recently that it is consulting on this issue with a view to strengthening ‘central oversight’ over wholly-owned subsidiaries, no doubt to oversee their privatisation.

Unite national officer for health, Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, said ahead of today’s demonstrations: ‘The government’s proposal for a consultation on wholly-owned subsidiaries is a step in the right direction finally, but it falls far short from what Unite is calling for.

‘We want the HMRC to close the tax loophole so NHS trusts are not forced to consider outsourcing NHS services to private limited companies in the form of a private wholly-owned subsidiary of NHS trusts. ‘We want the new secretary of state for health and social care, Matt Hancock, to enforce a moratorium on the further creation of other wholly-owned subsidiary companies while this consultation is taking place and for those that are in the process of being created to be paused while the consultation takes place.’

However, it is the government that is driving the NHS privatisation process, and trade union appeals for the leopard to change its spots will be ignored. It is the working class, in its trade unions, taking action to support the NHS trade unions, that will stop this NHS privatisation drive in its tracks.

In fact, NHS workers at the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust have already shown the way when 900 hospital caterers, cleaners, porters and other staff at the three hospitals in Lancashire engaged in strike actions to stop the Trust transferring their jobs to a private company it planned to set up as a wholly-owned subsidiary, WWL Solutions Limited.

A spokesman for the WWL board, outlining their plan, tried to make the workers an offer that they could not refuse. He said: ‘As always, patient safety is our number one priority and this decision protects both the Trust’s financial stability and jobs.

‘WWL Solutions will be owned entirely by the Trust and we believe this is the best way to ensure we can continue to deliver high quality services. ‘WWL Solutions staff will continue to be part of the WWL family, but creating this wholly-owned company places us on a level playing field with the private sector. This means that WWL Solutions can grow by securing new business and providing more opportunities for our E&F and procurement staff. It will also generate significant savings for the Trust, without affecting the pay, pensions or terms and conditions for any of the staff who transfer.

‘The Trust must save £14.5m this year. If the planned savings are not generated from WWL Solutions, they would have to have been found in other ways.’ It was either agree to being outsourced or lose your jobs.

The workforce found a third way, to mount a massive defence of their jobs! They responded to the Trust’s plan to outsource them to WWL Solutions Ltd with Unison strike actions on 23-24 May, and on 8-10 June, plus a five-day strike from 28 June to 3rd July. A further walkout was planned for 17 July.

There was no need for the action on 17 July since the NHS trust had dropped its plan by then to outsource the 900 jobs following an intervention from the local Wigan council. The actions in York and Chesterfield today shows that the crisis of capitalism is driving the bosses forward to privatise the NHS for their own profit. The proper response must be for the working class in their trade unions to form a common front with the NHS workers to halt NHS privatisation.

The trade unions must call an indefinite general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers’ government and socialism to defend and develop the NHS by nationalising the banks and the drug companies that currently are holding the NHS to ransom.

The working class has the power – now it must use it!