A UNION has vowed to take legal action after it says 30 prison drug and alcohol workers were “dumped” as part of a new contract.
From tomorrow, when the existing Staffordshire County Council contract with South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Trust (SSSHNT) ends, 19 counsellors will be out of work.
Lifeline, which has been awarded the new contract from Monday, has not retained existing staff. Eleven have been found employment within the Trust.
Unison says the workers have been part of a drug and alcohol counselling service in five prisons across the county including Stafford and Drake Hall.
Rick Tudor, regional organiser for Unison, said: ”They have been dumped in a big heap from a great height with nowhere to go.” Nick Jennings, Unison’s south Staffordshire branch chairman, said Manchester- based company Lifeline had refused to talk to them. He said: “Staffordshire County Council has a lot to answer for.
“How and why was this contract awarded without protecting the dedicated staff? We want the council to protect and secure our members’ jobs - we want them to take immediate steps to meet with Lifeline to make this happen.”
The union says the staff should transfer to Lifeline under the current Tupe legislation which provides protection to workers transferring to a new employer.
Mr Jennings said: “The county council is washing their hands of this and saying it’s down to Lifeline and the Trust to sort it out.
“Unison has been trying to have dialogue with Lifeline about this for many weeks now but they have refused to engage with us.
"If no resolution is found the union will be taking legal action against Lifeline and (the trust).” Despite repeated attempts by the Newsletter, Lifeline has declined to comment on the situation.
County councillor Robert Marshall said: "We understand that Lifeline will transfer some staff from the current providers under Tupe legislation but as they are changing operating processes not all staff will be transferred.
"They have been in correspondence with the (trust) and the county council has been providing support to try to ensure a smooth handover.
"The county council has no legal power to force Lifeline to take on staff who are employed by other providers and whom Lifeline believe do not transfer to them under Tupe provisions.
A spokesman for SSSHNT said he believed staff should transfer to Lifeline and expected the company to meet its legal obligations.
Greg Moores, director of human resources, organisational development and equality at the Trust, said: "We have worked closely with the staff and our trade union partners since Lifeline notified us of their position.
“We are currently discussing the way forward with our solicitors.
“Our priority has been to support our staff as best we can.
“In a very short time we have been able to redeploy a number of staff affected by Lifeline's stance into suitable vacancies within the trust.
“We will continue to support affected staff up until Monday when their employment will transfer to Lifeline."