Cleaners at Princess Alexandra Hospital have put their bosses on notice that unless the hospital ditches “hazardous” plans to privatise cleaning services, they will go into dispute, UNISON says today.

If a dispute is declared, the PAH Trust will have to come to the negotiating table to try to resolve problems. If that fails external conciliation service ACAS will be brought in and if there’s still no agreement hospital staff may be forced to vote on industrial action.

UNISON has written to Trust chief executive officer Lance McCarthy, giving the board 10 days to withdraw from market testing – the first step in the outsourcing process – or face a dispute.

The union warns that there is “no rationale” for privatisation, saying workers are “deeply concerned about the ability of private companies to deliver these types of vital services within the NHS” given a history of private-sector failure.

Academics have shown that hospitals with outsourced cleaning services have higher rates of MRSA infection, the letter says.

UNISON is also concerned about the cleaners’ terms and conditions, as Transfer of Undertaking (Protections of Employment) regulations only offer limited protections and outsourced staff would not be entitled to nationally agreed improvements to pay and conditions in the future, creating a two-tier workforce at the Trust.

More than 1,000 people signed a petition calling on PAH to scrap the privatisation plans within a week. Harlow MP Robert Halfon has told UNISON he is opposed to outsourcing at PAH, as has the local Labour Party.

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