MORE than 80 per cent of union members at Airedale and Bradford's NHS trusts have voted for possible industrial action over plans to form private companies at the two trusts.

Airedale NHS Foundation Trust is going ahead with proposals to set up a subsidiary company to operate facilities and procurement services.

And it has now been joined by Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – which runs Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Luke’s Hospital – and is also looking at setting up a “wholly owned subsidiary”.

This would again be a company separate from the hospital that would be responsible for services such as catering, cleaning, security, and other non-medical roles.

Natalie Ratcliffe, regional organiser for Unison, said the results of its indicative ballot were “expected”.

She said: “Roughly 82 per cent of members would be in favour of industrial action if the companies were formed.

“We know staff are very angry about it and do not want to be moved to a private company where their contract’s terms and conditions will be affected.

“At Airedale, if they continue with the company they would make £6 million of savings, £5 million on tax and £1 million on terms and conditions of staff, and I anticipate it would be the same in Bradford.

“We will talk about a two-tier workforce and attacks on terms and conditions. We feel this is being done purely for tax purposes.”

Airedale bosses have countered that their planned subsidiary company will enable them to operate more efficiently.

They have argued the changes will also mean they can employ more local people on good terms and make a greater contribution to the local economy, by having more freedom to procure goods and services from local suppliers.