REHAB workers who support people with drug and alcohol problems in Leigh are set to strike for 10 days in September over a promised pay rise.

Ex-NHS staff whose jobs have been transferred to London-based charity We Are With You, were told that pay rises in the health service would be matched.

But for two years now, they have been locked in a dispute with their employer over a pay deal awarded to their NHS colleagues which was agreed in 2018.

The staff at the drug and alcohol rehabilitation service commissioned by Wigan Council say they stand to lose £230,000 in wages between them.

It comes after the charity spent £140,000 to change its name from Addaction earlier this year, according to charity sector publication Civil Society Media.

UNISON says the recent rebrand cost the charity more than the promised pay rise would for its 30 members who are set start strike action on September 21.

The staff, who are not allowed to speak to the media without prior permission from their employer, say the dispute over pay has been “soul-destroying”.

One employee who spoke to the Local Democracy Reporting Service anonymously, said it is a “race to the bottom” at one end of the organisation.

He said: “We do a really difficult job. We’re not expecting to be paid in a super tax bracket. We’re expecting to be paid the same as colleagues in the NHS.

“A lot of our staff have mental health issues due to stress. It’s affecting our mental health, our daily lives, our financial situation.

“In real terms, our wages have gone down and down.”

Staff, who support people across the borough, say they were promised a pay rise by their managers when the NHS three-year pay deal was agreed in 2018, but they have still not received it and as a result, they went on strike for 16 days to force their employer into action.

However, despite offers from the charity, the dispute remains unresolved.

The support workers postponed all strike action during the initial lockdown period, but say they have become frustrated by their employer’s failure to settle the dispute and have committed to striking for ten consecutive days.

Staff say the service has only become busier since they last went on strike.

One said: “It’s completely demoralising when you’re working harder and harder to the point of exhaustion and you’re not getting the pay rise you deserve.

“For me, as a parent and having a small family, the effects have been devastating.

“To have that rug pulled out from under, it’s soul-destroying. It creates a massive impact on family life and our physical and mental health.”

The rehab workers also revealed that many of their colleagues are leaving the job due to the financial situation they face, with around 10 quitting since 2018.

They fear that the recruits who are replacing them are not ready for the role.

One anonymous employee said: “All we see is people leaving and planning to leave. And the people they are recruiting, they would find it hard to get a job in the NHS.

“Younger and less experienced staff have been recruited. It’s a very difficult job role and you need to have a very unique and long standing skillset and experience to do it.”

We Are With You said it has made three offers to end the dispute, including a “significant” one-off payment which “properly recognises” staff concerns.

It also awarded a bonus for all staff last year and two pc pay increase in 2020.

But it said the commitment to the terms and conditions in NHS contracts did not include the NHS Agenda for Change pay award which was not finalised until after staff transferred to the charity, following an NHS consultation.

A spokesperson said: “We made this decision taking into consideration the legal position, fairness between colleagues, our own organisation’s pay and rewards that we apply equally to all staff and the principles of how we do that.

“We have now made three significant offers to end the dispute, but UNISON has unfortunately not shown any willingness to negotiate a fair deal.

“We are disappointed that further strike action could take place and are committed to trying to work through the issues in a way that is fair and sustainable for our staff, the people who use our services and the local community.”