• Striking staff are part of a TUPE transfer from University of London to HEE
  • Trade union IWGB says staff face “massive increases” to their pension contributions
  • Two other unions have also raised concerns about TUPE consultation

A number of staff who are being transferred to Health Education England went on strike this week, following “extremely tough” negotiations between trade unions and the arm’s-length body.

The striking staff are members of trade union the Independent Workers of Great Britain and are moving as part of a TUPE transfer from the University of London to HEE, which is due to take place on 1 August.  

It is understood the transfer has been prompted by an HM Revenue and Customs review, which established HEE would incur a £2.1m VAT liability as a result of the contractual arrangement with the university.

An Independent Workers of Great Britain spokesman said the staff worst affected are long-serving lower grade administrative staff who face “massive increases” to their pensions contributions because of the transfer. 

He added this was the first time the union’s members, who went on strike for one day on Thursday, would be striking and suggested the move to HEE would result in a “significant fall in their standard of living”.

Trade unions Unison and the University and College Union, who negotiated the transfer, also raised concerns about the TUPE consultation in May. 

In a letter to the University of London’s director of HR, the trade unions said the consultation had “serious shortcomings, due to HEE’s refusal to provide the information staff require to make consultation meaningful”.

They said a suggested pay freeze for staff, lack of advice about pensions options and lack of clarification on annual leave were among key concerns staff raised. 

The letter continued: “We have tried to raise these issues with HEE managers prior but with no success. HEE should know that its silence on these matters does not go down well among staff. It smacks of arrogance and contempt.”

Unison London regional manager Karen Westwood said affected staff had “many concerns to raise with their soon to be new employer”.

Ms Westwood added: “Initially HEE was reluctant to talk, which left staff feeling frustrated. But negotiations ­– that have been extremely tough ­at times – have now taken place, and any issues around leave, pay and future redundancies have mostly been resolved.”

She acknowledged moving employers can be a “stressful experience” but added Unison has supported its members throughout this “difficult process”.

An HEE spokeswoman said a “small number of employees” were taking industrial action, and added: “The move entails a change of pension provider, for some of the staff concerned, to the NHS pension scheme.”