Labour conference delegates were reminded of the clear and present dangers posed to the NHS through Tory privatisation by Unite today (September 26).
First time speaker and Unite member Simon O’Keefe, who has worked in the NHS for 16 years, addressed conference about the growing threat from health service trusts creating wholly owned subsidiary companies to avoid tax.
After congratulating Unite and others for their victory yesterday in forcing the government to take over the construction of the Royal Liverpool Hospital, O’Keefe warned delegates that the recent rash of trusts attempting to create subsidiary firms must be stopped.
He said, “Up and down the country NHS Trusts have been outsourcing staff into new private companies – dubbed as wholly owned subsidiaries – in order to exploit a tax loophole and attack staff terms and pay.
“We are told that this is not privatisation because they are still owned by the NHS. That is simply not true. These companies are transferring hard working NHS staff and assets out of the public sector, out of national bargaining, and out of the NHS. Like Carillon there is no protection from failure and no accountability.”
Last week Unite hailed a “significant victory” in its campaign against the creation of such firms following an announcement by NHS Improvement that trusts should “pause” any current plans to create new subsidiaries or change existing ones.
NHS Improvement, the body that oversees trusts, said it would be consulting on a new regulatory approach next month and will then be issuing new guidance.
Unite has waged a dogged campaign against the privatisation of the NHS through subsidiary firms, which it says will lead to job losses and the salami slicing of services.
Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust is the latest trust in a growing number that has decided to abandon plans to set up such a subsidiary in the face of fierce resistance from Unite.
At the same time Unite NHS members in East Kent and York are taking strike action against their respective trusts, which are defying NHS Improvement’s call for a “pause” in the creation of subsidiary firms.
O’Keefe (pictured above) told conference that Unite members will continue to face down attempts to outsource their jobs until the practise is stopped completely and the tax loophole that forces NHS Trusts to consider creating subsidiary companies is closed.
He said, “As an NHS worker I urge you to support your local NHS and support NHS staff, fighting to protect your services.
“Sisters and brothers we will not be beaten. We represent the future. Support our NHS and let’s get a Labour government.”
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth told the conference that he will be standing with NHS workers fighting against outsourcing through wholly owned subsidiaries.
He said, “The next Labour government will end privatisation, will end PFI, we will repeal the Health and Social Care Act and yes will bring forward reinstatement legislation as we begin the process of renationalising our National Health Service.
“And we’ll block transfers of hospital staff to subsidiary companies too. In the coming days I’ll join those unions like Unison and Unite on a picket line against this backdoor privatisation.”