9 July 2014
Unite, the UK’s largest union, condemned the ‘sign or be sacked’ letters sent by Northampton General Hospital (NGH) to 78 locked out biomedical scientists today (Tuesday 8 July). Branding the letters as ‘provocative’ ahead of Acas talks later this week, the union warned that the trust’s intimidatory tactics could be the future of industrial relations in an increasingly privatised NHS.
The union warned that NGH is putting lives at grave risk in its bid to force locked out biomedical scientists to sign away a 10 year agreement, as Dr Sonia Swart (CEO) admits to sending more complex cases to other hospitals for testing in a statement made yesterday (Monday 7 July).
Unite is calling on the trust to come clean about where samples are being sent and how long patients are waiting for blood results after reports that London’s Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust 70 miles away is picking up NGH’s complex testing work.
78 biomedical scientists and support staff were banned from work nearly two weeks ago on Thursday 26 June as they prepared to take part in lawful industrial action over the trust’s continued refusal to negotiate its ‘sign or be sacked’ ultimatum.
Unite members, working in the hospital’s pathology department, are the only staff group who face losing up to £6,000 a year and a doubling in their night shifts under the new deals.
Condemning the trust’s actions in the strongest possible terms, Gail Cartmail, Unite assistant general secretary, said: “Northampton General Hospital’s callous attempts to starve its biomedical scientists and support staff back to work must not be allowed to become a template of how NHS trusts treat their staff in an increasingly privatised NHS.
“It is frankly abhorrent that we are having this battle with an NHS trust. How on earth can Dr Swart claim that patient safety is not at risk when 84 per cent of the hospital’s pathology department have been locked out of the workplace?
“Dr Swart needs to come clean and tell the people of Northampton that this is a department in crisis. She can start by explaining what she means by ‘acceptable timeframe’ after reports that patients are waiting four times as long for blood test results.
“We consider it an unacceptable risk to patient safety and condemn in the strongest possible terms the trust’s heavy handed union busting-tactics. We urge the trust’s management to be ready to negotiate on the proposed new contracts when Acas talks resume this week. We are calling on the trust to remove the sign or be sacked ultimatum, which will see members out of a job by the end of July and allow them back to work with immediate effect.
“Unite will do what it takes to make sure that this type of strong-armed, bully-boy tactic is not the future for industrial relations in the NHS.”
The new contracts will see workers forced to double their night time shifts from seven days in 14 weeks to 14 days in 14 weeks while out-of-hours payments are slashed by 80 per cent.
A typical biomedical scientist earns between £21,000-£35,000 a year and will have a university degree, often Masters degrees, plus additional post graduate training and many years’ experience. The starting salary of pathology support staff is around £18,000 a year.