STRIKE action may be looming at York Hospital over controversial proposals to transfer NHS staff to a subsidiary company.

Members of the Unite union affected by the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s plans have voted overwhelmingly in a consultation ballot to say they are willing to take part in both strike action and action short of a strike.

Unite says the 77 per cent vote in favour gives it a clear mandate to now call a formal ballot for industrial action.

Officials Chris Daly and Terry Cunliffe said the union would consult with the hundreds of members affected and develop a campaign to deliver on their mandate.

The trust has formed a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) to deal with estates and facilities at its sites across the district, including York Hospital, which it says is ‘wholly owned by the NHS’.

Staff who work in facilities and maintenance roles at York Hospital and across the trust, such as porters, catering staff and cleaners, move to the new company on October 1.

The Unite officials claimed the company was being set up in order to avoid paying tax, creating the ‘perverse situation of a tax funded hospital avoiding tax’.

They also claimed members would be removed from the protection of ‘Agenda for Change’ and said Unite would continue to work with other unions in the campaign and ask them to actively support colleagues and fight the ‘privatisation agenda’.

The officials said members peacefully protesting over the issue outside York Hospital on July 23 had received ‘overwhelming’ support from the passing public, but claimed the trust board had decided to move the time of its meeting forward by an hour to avoid the protest and the press.

They said this meant it ‘missed an opportunity to talk to those whose lives are being turned upside down by decisions that they are responsible for'.

A spokeswoman for the trust said it was ‘aware of the outcomes of the unions’ indicative ballots’.

She said: “If and when strike action is announced, we will ensure that we have plans in place to enable us to continue to deliver services safely for our patients, as we have done during previous periods of industrial action.”

She said staff who transferred to the company would have their Agenda for Change terms and conditions protected in line with TUPE regulations, and new staff would be on terms and conditions that mirrored Agenda for Change.

She claimed the comments about the board meeting were ‘simply untrue’, adding: “The meeting was held in public at 10.45am as planned and advertised, and there were union representatives there, at least for the start of the meeting.”