Union takes action after staff axed in Sunderland health shake-up

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A UNION is set to take legal action against health bosses after three Wearside workers were left facing the dole queue.

The nutrition and obesity service staff, all working with people in Sunderland, are caught in the middle of a jobs wrangle between two health trusts.

Earlier this year, a deal was struck to transfer a wellness contract from South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust to its County Durham and Darlington counterpart and Neca (the North East Council for Addictions).

But uncertainty surrounded the future of those employed in the nutrition and obesity service over whether or not they would be included as part of the transfer.

On Wednesday, as the new contract was set to begin, the three workers turned up at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust headquarters, but they were told that there were no jobs for them.

The County Durham trust insists the staff were informed there would not be roles for the trio once the services were transferred, but their bosses in South Tyneside argue that the agreement was that all workers would be kept on.

Now the dispute is set to trigger legal action, with Unison set to take the issue to an employment tribunal.

John McDade, Unison’s regional organiser, said: “The situation is that we got an email back from the commissioners to say they had asked County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust to reconsider their position and that they would get back to us.

“Now, three well-trained, loyal workers are unemployed. We are looking at serious litigation now. That will initially be against all three employers, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and Neca.

“In addition, the nutrition and obesity service for the people of Sunderland appears very uncertain and needs clarity and certainty.

Mr McDade added: “This is clear evidence that the NHS services are being run down and health workers are being thrown onto the dole, while NHS trusts turn against each other, when they should be working together to provide excellent services.”

A spokeswoman for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said: “County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust and NECA have been commissioned to provide a new integrated wellness service for Sunderland City Council.

“Most of the staff in the previously-commissioned services have transferred from South Tyneside and will have roles in the new service.

“Unfortunately, there are not roles for three staff from the now-decommissioned nutrition and obesity service. Staff were informed about this as part of consultation discussions.

“We very much sympathise with the staff concerned.”

Ian Frame, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s executive director for personnel and development, said: “The transfer was progressing on the basis that this was a transfer of a whole service from one organisation to another and all staff transferring would have their employment and earnings protected

“Despite numerous attempts to resolve the disagreement, we were unable to do so at the date of the transfer.

“We are extremely upset for our former staff and frustrated about the whole situation, which, seemingly, may need to be resolved by an employment tribunal.”