UNISON members at five NHS Logistics sites – supplying 43,000 items from beds to surgical supplies to hospitals and GPs across England – will walk out on strike tonight against privatisation.
Speaking about the first of two 24-hour strikes, a UNISON spokeswoman told News Line: ‘We’ve got five depots meeting today to draw up rotas for picketing and looking to get support of other parts of the local community.
‘From 10 o’clock Thursday evening, the lorries will stop leaving. Deliveries, which normally take place throughout the night, will not go out.
‘These centres run at full capacity, supplying hospitals and GP surgeries across England.
‘There was a 74 per cent vote in favour of strike action in the ballot and we expect that will be demonstrated in the action tomorrow.
‘Our members are angry and very upset about the way in which, although they are a success story, which has delivered huge savings to the NHS and is a not for profit organisation, they’re now being told they will be transferred to a German parcels company on October 1.
‘This is part of the unacceptable privatisation of the NHS and we will be looking for support for our members at next week’s Labour Party conference.’
NHS Logistics operates from distribution centres at Alfreton in Derbyshire, Runcorn in Cheshire, Normanton in West Yorkshire, Maidstone in Kent and Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.
UNISON Head of Health for Eastern England, Geoff Reason, covering Bury St Edmunds, said: ‘You name it, it supplies a significant proportion of supplies in hospitals, everything from beds to bed pans, a whole range of things.
‘Privatisation would mean the public paying more for the service.
‘DHL have guaranteed terms and conditions of staff for the moment, but all our experience shows us that in the long term staff will lose out.
‘There’s also a strike next week on the 26th, that coincides with a UNISON motion going to the Labour Party conference against privatisation of the NHS.’
Calling for support for the NHS Logistics staff, Warehouse Admin. Clerk, Jan Lavender, UNISON branch chair at Bury St Edmunds, told the UNISON website: ‘Most of our workers are married people in their late 20s or early 30s with young children and mortgages, while at the other end of the scale we have people coming up to pension age who would find it hard to get another job.
‘I think members are feeling it’s very much the beginning of the end of the NHS,’ she warned.