• More than 300 staff to strike at Bradford Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust
  • New subsidiary company due to begin operation in October
  • Trust says staff pay and pensions will be protected

Hundreds of staff at Bradford Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust have started a two-week strike over the trust’s plans to set up a subsidiary company.

Trade union Unison said more than 300 porters, domestic, security and catering staff would be taking part in the strike that will last until 15 August.

They are opposed to plans to outsource their roles to a subsidiary company and claim their pay and pensions will suffer because of cost cutting.

The trust said the strike would affect all its sites, including Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Luke’s Hospital. It said essential services, including emergency and urgent surgery, would continue as normal.

The new subsidiary company, Bradford Healthcare Facilities Management Ltd, will be responsible for the trust’s estates, facilities and clinical engineering services. It is expected to be operating from October.

The trust has said staff terms and conditions will be protected for 25 years, or as long as the company has a contract with the trust, and they will continue to have access to the NHS pension.

This latest strike follows an earlier week of industrial action in July.

The creation of subsidiary companies has been a controversial development. Dozens of trusts have set up subsidiaries in recent years to make savings from non-clinical services and VAT.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Staff are taking this action to ensure the NHS keeps its highly motivated and committed workforce together, working for the people of Bradford, not for the directors of a private company.

“It doesn’t reflect well on the trust that staff who are proud to be part of the NHS have to take to the streets to convince the trust that patients and staff come before profits.”

However, Bradford Teaching Hospitals FT claimed the need to deliver savings of 4 per cent of turnover – or £16m a year – means it will be difficult to maintain support services.

In a statement, it said: “Rather than wait for the inevitable contraction and decline, we want to use our scale and expertise to build up the business and win additional work to reinforce the core NHS support service.

“We have listened to concerns from our staff and union colleagues and agree that we should not have a two-tier workforce. That’s why we have also taken an additional step, going above and beyond what any subsidiary company in the region is doing, by offering terms and conditions for new starters that are comparable to the national Agenda for Change terms and conditions that existing staff will transfer on.”