WWL NHS Trust trolls workers striking to stay in the NHS

wwl way out.png

NHS staff in the north-west are striking against a decision by Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust to transfer their employment out of the NHS to a new limited company set up by the trust to exploit tax rules.

Estates and facilities, porters, domestic and catering staff – among the lowest-paid in the NHS – are fighting to prevent a forced change that would move them out of NHS structures and protections with no sound guarantee that their conditions will not suffer over time.

In response, the trust has been using staff from other roles and volunteers to do the work of the cleaners – effectively as ‘strike-breakers’ – to the outrage of striking staff and their unions.

But even more extraordinarily senior staff, including the chief executive (CEO), have been trolling the strikers both in emails and on social media.

Executive trolling’

A May email from the CEO, Andrew Foster, titled ‘Industrial Action Update’ to the trust’s staff made a point of claiming that the Trust had actually been doing better with the stand-ins than with the paid staff:

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Foster used A&E as his only example – which may be telling as it would seem likely that if performance in other areas had not gone down, this would have been mentioned too.

A shoddy job?

When staff provided evidence to challenge claims that the volunteers and drafted-in staff were on top of the cleaning of wards, the trust’s Director of Operations and Performance was sceptical:


Her ‘struggle to understand why WWL staff are striking’ is surprising – and the idea was strongly criticised by staff:


Another trust director chirped about what a great time he’d had – and was met with a heavy dose of sarcasm with a razor-tipped point, encapsulating perfectly both the reason for the staff’s determination to fight and how out of touch those they are fighting seem to be:

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No answers

The SKWAWKBOX wrote to WWL’s chief executive on Monday (emphases added for this article):

Dear Mr Foster,

Please find below some questions regarding the strike action at your trust and the trust’s response to it. I’d be grateful if you or a colleague could provide answers by return.

  • Striking staff clearly feel that using volunteers and office/estates staff to do the work of strikers amounts to strike-breaking. I understand that certain minimum actions have to be carried out for patient safety, but you have sent emails to staff, for example your 25 May ‘Industrial Action Update’ where you boasted that the volunteers etc had exceeded the performance of employed workers, or your tweet at 6.51pm 1 July containing a screenshot of A&E performance data.
    – Do you consider this an appropriate response to a legitimate industrial action?
    – Do you consider the ‘Industrial Action Update’ to be an appropriate message to send to staff, including those involved in the industrial action and your public tweets to be appropriate messages for employees and public?
  • In spite of the claims to have exceeded normal performance, staff have alleged publicly that cleaning is not being carried out to the same extent or standard, including on infection wards.
    How does the Trust respond to these serious allegations?
    What training was provided to staff to ensure competence to perform unfamiliar duties?
  • Your staff member Mary Fleming has tweeted demonstrating a lack of understanding of the likelihood of variations of the contract under which the staff would be working for the new subsidiary.
    How will the trust/subsidiary protect the staff from such potential future changes now?
    – Similarly, future changes to NHS pay and conditions will not automatically be reflected in the subsidiary workers’ contracts. Is the subsidiary guaranteeing to replicate NHS conditions as a minimum?

  • In your 25 May update email, you mention a ‘union steward’ who complained about the behaviour of the strikers, but as someone with decades of union involvement I have to say his/her statement doesn’t quite ring true – especially of one who claims to support the strikers’ aims.
    Is the steward in question willing to talk to the SKWAWKBOX? His/her identity can be protected if required, but bona fides would need to be established, of course.

In spite of a reminder that publication was approaching, no answer has been received.

A local activist told the SKWAWKBOX:

The Labour Party supports this strike and Lisa Nandy and Jo Platt MPs have been on the picket lines supporting the striking staff. Jeremy Corbyn has spoken up for them in Parliament and at the London NHS rally on Saturday.

But former Labour MP Neil Turner is a director of this new company set up specifically to take low-paid staff out of the NHS family. Why is he still a member?

There’s a Labour meeting at Whelley Labour club on Thursday evening – he is expected to be there and people will have questions for him.

The SKWAWKBOX has been unable to reach Mr Turner for comment.


The SKWAWKBOX stands in solidarity with the WWL fighting to remain as NHS employees and is sure the vast majority of its readers will too.

WWL CEO was pictured today cutting an NHS ‘birthday’ cake with a volunteer to celebrate the NHS’ 70th anniversary:

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Many of his staff could be excused for thinking a better celebration of the NHS and its values would be to keep them in it.

Whatever the trust’s reasons for pursuing a course of action that will disadvantage staff, it’s hard to think of an adequate excuse for trolling those staff by email and on social media for fighting for their jobs – within the NHS.

There have been further troubling aspects of the trust’s behaviour, which will feature on this blog shortly.

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  1. It’s been my opinion for a long time that certain managers have been deliberately recruited to undermine the NHS from the inside. Simon Stevens anyone?

  2. Yes we need to clear the political imbeciles from the top of the NHS.
    I can remember the old Community Health Councils which held the NHS and its managers, CEOs, and trustees to account and perhaps we should bring them back; we need a good dose of democracy in the NHS!
    The NHS is brilliant but capital is happy too, it gets all these healthy workers for free; I am a bit tired of all these liberals and centre/left saying we should all pay a little more – make the rich and corporations Pay Up Your Tax for the NHS!

    1. “but capital is happy too, it gets all these healthy workers for free”

      Capital’s and the Tories’ interest in our health, as you imply, was always self-serving whether they wanted us as cannon fodder or wage slaves.

      AI/robotics is coming though and, while their main interest in our health will still be in how to squeeze the maximum return out of it, now it’ll be just as customers of US Health Corp.

  3. And what’s worse… the NHS are being “forced” to cut costs and they are doing this by saving tax. Meaning the government have less tax to pay to the NHS.

    And I’m sure some consultant somewhere is getting a portion of the savings.

    So on the end saving money costs the tax payer money!

  4. Need to get rid of our managerial morons and good news from US.
    A right wing anti environmentalist EPA creep has just resigned but why wasn’t he honest in his resignation letter, should have said:
    ‘Dear Donald, I am resigning because I am causing negative publicity for the Republicans but I have always been loyal to our right wing barbarian cause, killing the planet for the profits of oil and coal!

  5. I believe WWL workers will be on strike for 7 days from 17th this month. Pickets from 8am – 2pm.

    Also demonstration on Saturday 21st.

    I hope Skwarkbox will check the details and post them because this dispute is of great importance in defence of our NHS.

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