Hospital wards could close and operations cancelled if the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust carries out its threat to sack its 5,400 staff in a dispute over sick pay for employees.
The warning has come from Unite, the country’s largest union, in a letter to 40 local GPs, as the trust’s staff have been told they will be dismissed on 31 March 2013 and reengaged on inferior terms and conditions.
The letter is calling for the legal document HR1 sanctioning the redundancies to be withdrawn, so that the trust operates safely for patients – and has the support of other heath trade unions.
The trust covers 365,000 people living in East Durham, Hartlepool, Stockton on Tees and part of Sedgefield.
Unite’s head of health Rachael Maskell said that the last thing that the union wanted is for disruption that could adversely affect patient care and pointed out that the Department of Health itself had branded the trust’s action as ‘high risk’.
Unite and the other health unions called on the management to withdraw its threat of mass redundancy and hold urgent talks over the dispute which would see the trust tearing up the national Agenda for Change provisions for sick pay.
Unite and the other health unions are advising their members not to sign the new contracts.
In the letter to the GPs signed by joint unions Rachael Maskell said: “With 5,452 members of staff being threatened with redundancy on 31 March 2013, there is a very high risk that staff will not engage with detrimental terms and conditions, and simply not be employed on 1 April 2013.
“If that were to happen to a significant extent, the trust would not be able to function.
“The NHS workforce will always put patient safety first, and we will be happy to work with you to ensure that patients do not suffer any detriment as a result of the trust's decision.
“We believe that the trust has not properly assessed the risk of its proposals and is therefore acting in a reckless manner which could lead to cancelled operations, ward closures and serious reductions in key services.”
Rachael Maskell said that NHS Staff Council Executive has just agreed a new paper on managing sickness levels. This would cut the trust’s sickness bill far more significantly than demoralising an entire health workforce in the north east of England.
For further information please contact Rachael Maskell on 07768 693933 or Unite regional officer Martin Wright on 07768 931 242. The Unite press office’s number is 020 3371 2065.
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.