Trust denies bullying claims

University Hospital of Hartlepool
University Hospital of Hartlepool

HEALTH bosses say there are no plans to make staff redundant after launching a consultation over proposals to scrap enhanced sickness payments.

Officials at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust responded after union bosses accused the trust of “incredibly provocative, bullying tactics” when 5,452 staff were issued with HR1 forms.

Union chiefs say the forms are also known as advance notification of redundancies. But trust bosses say the HR1 is a legal requirement which is necessary because they are proposing to make a change in employees’ contracts.

The trust is proposing to cut extra payments to staff who call in sick while rostered to work unsocial hours, during the night or on weekends, or on bank holidays, as reported in the Mail.

The trust, which runs the University Hospital of Hartlepool and the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, currently pays staff more for working during these hours and when they are off sick they still get the enhanced payments.

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But the consultation has been launched after the trust launched its £40m challenge and asked staff to come up with ideas to either save money or bring in additional income.

The HR1 forms are a legal requirement when employers are proposing to dismiss 20 or more employees at one establishment, within a period of 90 days or less.

Union bosses, who are seeking urgent legal advice, say the proposals effectively mean that, if the 5,452 staff do not agree to new terms and conditions by the end of March 2013, they would all be dismissed and then offered re-employment on the new, inferior terms and conditions.

They say they are not “taking anything” off the table in terms of their response.

But a trust spokeswoman said “The HR1 is a legal requirement which is necessary because we are proposing to make a change in employees’ contracts.

“There are no job losses or redundancies planned and the 90-day consultation period is an opportunity for us to build the informal discussions we have already had with staff and to seek their views.”

Glenn Turp, RCN regional director, said: “This is an incredibly confrontational approach, particularly as national negotiations are still continuing.

“It is almost as if they are deliberately trying to undermine national negotiations.

“This is a massive blow to staff morale and research shows that where staff morale is badly damaged, there is a risk that patient care can ultimately be affected.

“To say that our members are furious about this, is a massive understatement.

“The trust is bullying and intimidating the workforce to get them to sign new, less favourable contracts.

“The ultimate threat is that if they do not sign, they will all be sacked and offered re-employment on new contracts at the end of March 2013.”

Trust director of human resources Clare Curran said: “We do support national terms and conditions.

“We would welcome national resolution on this issue, however we are beginning our own consultation because we are growing increasingly frustrated and we feel we cannot wait for a national resolution.

“We will keep a close eye on the national position to see if any progress is being made.”