Wigan and Leigh drug and alcohol workers vote for strike action again as report shows We Are With You sucked £1.4m out of the local economy

Workers in the Wigan Council-commissioned drug and alcohol rehabilitation service have voted to take strike action for the sixth time in a dispute over pay. 

The workers are employed by the London-based charity ‘We Are With You’, which was previously known as ‘Addaction’.

Twenty-nine UNISON members were balloted over We Are With You’s failure to ensure that staff transferred from the NHS receive the full NHS rates of pay. 100% of the support workers voted for strike action on a turnout of 87%.

UNISON members have taken sixteen days of action previously over this issue which has not yet been resolved. The support workers postponed all strike action during the lockdown period but have become frustrated by their employer’s failure to settle the dispute and could strike again in September.

The support workers’ decision to strike came as their union UNISON released a report into the economic and social impact of We Are With You in Wigan and Leigh.

The report, entitled ‘Anti Keyworker Economics’ explains how the average ex-NHS We Are With You worker stands to lose £7,870 during over the five years of the We Are With You contract with Wigan Council, with some set to lose as much as £10,974. In total, the ex-NHS staff in Wigan and Leigh will lose out on £230,000 in wages over the duration of the contract.

Staff recruited directly by We Are With You are on lower rates of pay than ex-NHS staff. The report shows that the total cost of lost wages to all keyworkers in Wigan & Leigh is £1.84million over the five year period of the We Are With You contract. This reduces the spending power of the local economy in Wigan and Leigh by £1.38m.

Paddy Cleary, UNISON regional organiser said: “Having paused industrial action for the benefit of service users, our members had hoped that their gesture of goodwill would be reciprocated by their employer. Unfortunately, We Are With You still refuse to apply the NHS pay rates they previously promised to uphold.

“In voting for strike action, this dedicated group of support workers have once again shown their togetherness and determination to secure an ongoing commitment to NHS pay rates. Our members understand that without a consolidated NHS pay award, accepting any offer from We Are With You would amount to voting for pay cuts.

“Drug and alcohol workers provide a key public service and contribute to the local economy. The ‘Anti Keyworker Economics’ report clearly shows that We Are With You are not only underpaying their own staff, they are sucking money out of the local economy.

“The money that they have funnelled into their London-based organisation should have been spent in small businesses in Wigan and Leigh. Charities should not be allowed to play the role of facilitating pay cuts for keyworkers.”

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