Union fury as G4S ‘clean-up’ at Pennine Acute

Date published: 29 April 2013

Unite, Britain’s largest trade union which represents members across Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has responded angrily to concerns that troubled company G4S has been awarded the multi-million pound contract to contract to provide cleaning and domestic services across its 4 sites including the Rochdale Infirmary.

Last month, Unite Branch Secretary for the Trust, Liz McInnes, and a Senior Biochemist outlined her concerns in an email to the Chairman and Chief Executive: “...Whilst G4S is best known in this country for its shambolic Olympic security, it also has a woeful international record and reputation. In particular, G4S is complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine. G4S provides security systems and other services for major Israeli prisons. Human Rights organisations have documented systematic torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including child prisoners, in Israel’s prison system.

“G4S also provides equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints and settlements in the West Bank that form part of the route of Israel’s illegal Wall, as well as to the terminals isolating the occupied and besieged Gaza.

“Unite PAHT Branch has serious concerns about Pennine Acute choosing to engage such a company and would request that the Trust re-examines the award of the contract to G4S and also has a serious think about adopting a policy of only working with companies which can demonstrate a sound ethical policy and not ones which profit from war and conflict.”

Last week, over a month after raising these concerns, Ms McInnes received the following reply from CEO John Saxby: “G4S is a global supplier of services and has contracts with numerous public sector organisations in the UK. In the NHS I am aware of 13 Trusts in which G4S provide cleaning in addition to a wide range of other services including security, portering, reception, waste management and linen and laundry. The procurement process included the usual pre-qualification and shortlisting stages and during this rigorous process G4S demonstrated their capabilities and experience, all backed up with references. There was no valid reason to exclude them at pre-qualification stage or from the shortlisting process.

“I am confident that the Trust awarded the contract properly in terms of contract specification and process. To do otherwise would have exposed the Trust to a range of risks about tendering and competition.

“The contract will save the Trust in excess of £200K per annum against the previous contract price. The Trust Board was however mindful of the importance of keeping our hospitals clean and safe both for patients and staff. Whilst contract price is a consideration, delivery to exacting contract specification standards is of a higher priority. Had the contract cost more than the expired contract and yet delivered a much higher quality of output and outcome the Board would have taken that into account in awarding the contract. It may not have altered the outcome but would have been a consideration.

“The Trust Endowment Committee does have a policy of not investing Trust Endowment funds directly in companies whose principle business is tobacco, alcohol or arms. However many multi-national global companies are so diverse in their make up that inevitably there are cross overs in their businesses where doubts can be expressed about ethical considerations. Many medical equipment suppliers supply items to countries whose human rights approaches some might say are questionable to say the least."

Speaking to Rochdale Online, Ms McInnes said: “I'm disappointed by the Chief Executive's response. I don't feel he’s really engaged with the ethical problems around G4S. Questions are being raised about large public sector organisations like the BBC and the Government awarding contracts to G4S and I am concerned that our local NHS Trust appears to dismiss these very valid concerns.”

G4S are taking over the contract from Danish company ISS Mediclean. Its staff will be offered the opportunity to transfer to G4S under the Transfer of Undertakings (Public Employment) [TUPE] legislation.

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