Wigan and Leigh rehab workers begin ten-day strike in long-running pay dispute as their union is finally recognised by We Are With You

Workers in the Wigan-Council commissioned drug and alcohol rehabilitation service will begin a further ten days of strike action on Monday (21 September) in a dispute over pay.

The workers are employed by the London-based charity We Are With You. Between them, the support workers stand to lose £230,000 in wages over the duration of We Are With You’s contract with Wigan Council.

Thirty UNISON members voted 100% in favour of strike action over We Are With You’s failure to ensure that staff transferred from the NHS receive the full NHS rates of pay.

From Monday, they will begin ten days of strike action and hope to make their presence known whilst respecting the Government’s coronavirus restrictions. The rehab workers will hold socially distanced picket lines in Wigan and Leigh and will hold a virtual rally featuring speakers including Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan and Shadow Foreign Secretary.

UNISON members have taken sixteen days of strike action previously over the unresolved issue. The support workers postponed all strike action during the initial lockdown period but have become frustrated by their employer’s failure to settle the dispute.

Meanwhile, the drug and alcohol support workers have finally won their battle and forced their employer We Are With You to recognise UNISON as their trade union. The rehab workers began their campaign to be represented collectively through UNISON in 2019 but their employer refused to negotiate with the union.

But earlier this week, the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) declared UNISON to be the recognised union for We Are With You workers in Wigan and Leigh. The CAC did not uphold any of We Are With You management’s objections and were satisfied that over 50% of workers were members of UNISON. This decision means that We Are With You will be forced to negotiate with the support workers collectively through their union UNISON from now on.

UNISON North West regional organiser Paddy Cleary said: “We knew last year that over half of the workforce were members of UNISON and wanted their employer to recognise UNISON as their trade union. We Are With You have done everything within their power to prevent this from happening but this determined group of workers have succeeded in their campaign.

“We also knew from the outset that We Are With You’s decision to break their pay promise to these workers is morally bankrupt. This heroic group of key workers forced their employer’s hand over trade union recognition and they will do the same over pay.

We Are With You have refused to settle the dispute despite our attempts to negotiate again this week. This strike action could have been avoided if We Are With You had made a consolidated pay offer. They must now get back around the negotiating table and keep the pay promise they made to these workers. It’s the least they deserve after providing this vital service to the people of Wigan and Leigh throughout the pandemic.”

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