Select Committee on Health Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Amicus-AEEU (PS 65)


  Amicus-AEEU represents over 20,000 members in the NHS, the majority of whom work in Estates Departments across the country and as such are the main targets of the PFI process. To date Amicus-AEEU members have transferred to the private contractors in every PFI scheme, amounting to 500 since 1997 with an additional 500 expected to transfer in the next two years.

  As the main union involved in the hard facilities management (Hard fm) aspects of the process, Amicus-AEEU felt that it was vital that there was some tangible evidence about what happens to staff after the transfer process. On this note Amicus-AEEU commissioned a research study on the employment consequences of the PFI process in September 2001. Within a three-week period, an Amicus-AEEU Research Officer visited nine NHS PFI sites and interviewed representatives from the NHS, the private sector, staff in the Estates Department and the Amicus-AEEU Shop Steward. These individuals were questioned about the process and the implications for the workforce. A copy of this report can be obtained from the Amicus-AEEU Research Department, however a summary of the findings follows.

  The most interesting findings were the comments of the AEEU members who transferred to the private sector. While there were obviously a number of concerns prior to transfer about life in the private sector, post transfer we found the following:

    —  66 per cent of transferred staff felt protected in their employment with the new private sector employer.

    —  66 per cent of staff felt at least as valued with the new employer if not more, so then they did with the Trust.

    —  63 per cent of staff had at least the same level of job satisfaction, if not more so with the new employer than they did with the Trust.

    —  77 per cent of interviewed members felt comfortable in their employment with the new employer.

    —  60 per cent of staff felt at least as effective if not more so with the new employer than they did with the NHS.

    —  77 per cent of interviewed members felt secure in their employment in the private sector.

    —  86 per cent of interviewees maintained that the majority of staff will be happy to stay working for the new employer in the long run.

  Inevitably our members did have comments regarding how the transfer process could be improved. These included:

Transfer Process

    —  At every PFI project there was a clear issue surrounding lack of communication between staff and the NHS Trust, during the process. One solution to this would be a clear timetable added to the NHS guidelines on PFI, covering the issue of communication.


    —  Within the NHS training was never a priority, however training significantly improves after transfer. This needs to be encouraged across all PFI projects, including arrangements for apprentices and multi-skilling agreements.

New Starters

    —  A minimum Whitley guarantee for Terms and Conditions should be built into the contract as a minimum provision for all new staff employed to work at the Hospital.

    —  There is an issue about the levels of wages offered post transfer, new starters are being offered enhanced levels of pay in comparison to their NHS counterparts. This is the main evidence, which the study found of a two-tier workforce.


    —  Pensions are still the biggest fear for all AEEU members. The issue of pensions should be dealt with earlier in the process to allay the fears of transferring staff.

    —  The Government needs to issue standardised information on private pension schemes that are readily available to all transferred staff (the AEEU has already completed such a document, which has been endorsed by the Secretary of State).

Industrial Considerations

    —  Estates workers should be consulted on both the design and the build of the new hospital, as they have to ultimately maintain it.

    —  Staff should transfer to the Contractor as soon as the PFI contract has been signed to allow a transitional period.

Post Transfer

    —  There needs to be clear lines of authority set between the NHS Trust and the appointed Contractor, to ensure that staffs do not get caught on the middle. As has occurred at a number of Trusts, including, Norwich & Norfolk and Carlisle.

  Had we had the opportunity we would also have liked to examine with the Select Committee the comparative experience of publicly funded hospitals viz a viz PFI schemes, focusing on issues such as construction times and costs. Amicus-AEEU has a considerable number of members employed in the construction of hospitals. Our experience of publicly funded hospitals is that enormous delays can result and costs rocket. We would draw the Committees attention to the National Audit Office report on the Guy's Hospital Phase III Development. Costs escalated by £68.7 million, with a funding gap of £26.8 million and the build was delayed by three years and four months.

  Amicus-AEEU maintain that any examination of the PFI hospital building programmes should start with an analysis of hospitals built before PFI and the implications of new build by any means of the patients.

March 2002

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