Unite, the UK’s biggest union, has vowed to fight on for 78 biomedical scientists locked out of their Northampton General Hospital workplace by their NHS Trust employer which is refusing to step back from its ‘sign or be sacked’ ultimatum.
Unite is planning action in the town early next week to build on the tremendous public support for the workers after over 5,000 people signed a petition calling for their immediate reinstatement.
The trust's belligerent stance caused mediation talks at Acas to breakdown yesterday (Thursday 10 July), although Unite is calling on the employer to reconvene talks as a matter of urgency.
The dispute with the trust, which has been ongoing since July 2013, intensified when the employer denied the 78 long-serving biomedical staff access to their workplace, the hospital’s pathology department, on June 26 because they refused to sign new contracts on far worse terms.
Unite members will be £6,000 a year worse off and would struggle to balance family commitments under the new contracts which call for a doubling in night shifts with an 80 per cent cut to out-of-hours payments
Unite is calling on the trust to step back from its hard line stance and get the Acas talks back on track, warning that lives depend on it.
Mick Orpin, Unite regional officer said: “We’re deeply disappointed at NGH management’s bull-headed stance following the breakdown of Acas talks. It’s a bitter blow to these dedicated men and women who have been locked out of their workplace for two weeks for daring to stand up to the trust’s bully-boy tactics.
“This employer is seeking to starve our members back to work and into accepting wage cuts of £6,000 a year - but Unite will do everything in its power to resist this appalling behaviour and get this employer to see sense.
“We hoped that Acas talks would be the beginning of meaningful negotiations. Instead the trust refused point blank to negotiate its ‘sign or be sacked’ ultimatum.
"This is a disgraceful way for an NHS trust to be treating long-serving, dedicated staff and the trust’s CEO, Dr Sonia Swart should be thoroughly ashamed.
“Unite wants nothing more than to settle this increasingly bitter dispute. We have told Acas that we stand ready to reconvene talks at any time. We call on NGH’s management to commit to the same.”
Biomedical scientists test blood and operate complex transfusion machinery and typically earn between between £21,000-£35,000 a year. They 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.
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.
Sign the petition here: http:www.unitetheunion.org/nghlockout
For further information please contact Unite campaigns officer Chantal Chegrinec on 07774 146 777
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
Notes to editors:
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.