Contract ending to result in over 100 public health jobs being axed after loss of over 750 jobs last year

Unite the union has today (Thursday 2 February) strongly criticised the Scottish Government over its failure to protect the 100 remaining jobs at the Glasgow Diagnostics Lab.

Unite, which represents the workforce including sample handlers, scientists and operations roles, has repeatedly highlighted its serious concerns over the decision by both the Scottish and UK governments to abolish testing at the Glasgow Diagnostics Lab (formerly Lighthouse Lab).

An eleventh hour agreement by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to extend the contract with the University of Glasgow until September 2022 was agreed with the workforce being advised that around 850 roles would be safe until then. Around 750 roles were then made redundant in May and June 2022.  

Since then a small amount of residual “resilience/surge” Covid testing work including on new variants, as well as work for the Office of National Statistics, has been retained. The 100 remaining roles at the lab are now ending in March 2023.

Pat Rafferty, Unite Scottish Secretary, said: “The Glasgow Diagnostics Lab workforce are essential workers helping to protect public health in Scotland. The joint failure by the University of Glasgow and the Scottish Government to bring forward creative proposals to retain the Lab, which had more than 800 jobs based at the facility at its peak, is shameful.

“The decision by UKHSA to stop this vital testing whilst the Scottish Government looks on, represents a threat to public health. We call on the Scottish Government to safeguard these vital jobs because it’s not too late, and in doing so help to safeguard the people of Scotland.”

Despite repeated calls for clarification, Unite has not been informed by the Scottish Government or the University of Glasgow that any meaningful steps are being taken to ensure the redeployment for these skilled public health professionals. 

Unite also has received no formal response to its calls for the Scottish Government to intervene and invest in the site which sits at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Govan. It is Unite’s understanding that the facility will be handed back to use as a joint NHS Scotland and University of Glasgow teaching facility. 

Alison Maclean, Unite industrial officer, added: “There has been no commitment from the Scottish Government to extend the funding or redeploy this important workforce.  Around 100 public health roles in total are now on the brink of being lost at the Glasgow Diagnostics Lab. Many of these skilled workers could move from Scotland to other nations which would be a travesty. 

“Unite are once again calling on Scottish Government to meet with us to explore how we can retain the facility and save as many jobs as possible in the national interest.”