UNION members are being asked if they are prepared to take industrial action over plans to set up a company at Airedale Hospital.

The UNISON, UNITE and GMB unions are fighting plans by Airedale NHS Foundation Trust to create a “wholly owned subsidiary company" to deliver services such as portering, cleaning, ward catering and estates management.

UNISON regional organiser Natalie Ratcliffe said: “This is back door privatisation and we know if the plan goes ahead our members’ pay and conditions will be attacked.

“We also know that terms and conditions of future employees would be far inferior to existing agreements.

“This is as at a time when the NHS if facing a crisis in the recruitment and retention of clinical staff.

“A private company exists only to make profits and that's invariably at the expense of pay and conditions for their staff, as we've seen with the Carillion scandal.

“A private company will reduce the quality of service which patients will experience in future. We're so concerned that we've lodged a formal dispute with the trust.”

The unions argue a far more detailed, thorough consultation should have taken place before the decision was made to set up the company.

Bradford Council has passed a motion instructing its city solicitor to investigate the implications and legality of the private company.

But Stacey Hunter, Airedale's chief operating officer, responded: “We consulted with our unions and staff ahead of the decision by the board of directors to develop a wholly owned subsidiary for estates, facilities and procurement services, and have continued to invite our unions to consultation meetings.

"It's therefore sad that our unions have decided to go into formal dispute with the trust and are balloting their members about industrial action. "However, we remain committed to working with our unions and will meet with them to try and resolve the dispute.”