Pathologists banned from work for exercising legal right to strike

Unite, the UK’s largest union has branded Northampton General Hospital’s banning of 78 biomedical scientists from the workplace a ‘disgraceful abuse of power’ and has vowed to do what it takes to settle the dispute.

The Unite members, who have been involved in an increasingly bitter year long dispute over the trust’s plans to sack and re-engage workers on worse terms and conditions, were banned by the trust from entering the workplace on Thursday 26 June as they prepared to take legitimate industrial action.

Workers were due to begin industrial action- short of strike- including bans on overtime, out-of-hour working and on call at 00:01 on Thursday 26 June.

The union has accused the trust of putting patient safety at grave risk and wasting trust resources in its heavy-handed bid to force workers to accept new detrimental terms without any meaningful negotiation.

The 78 strong workforce, who face losing up to £6,000 a year under the new deal, have vowed to return to work today (Friday 27 June) but with the trust so far refusing to respond to calls from the Advisory Conciliation Arbitration Services (ACAS), a further lock out is expected.

Mick Orpin, Unite regional officer, said: “The trust is guilty of a disgraceful abuse of power not only for banning its workforce, but also for denying patients the expertise of dedicated and skilled professionals.

“Locking out an entire workforce for exercising their legal right to take industrial action is utterly barbaric and is virtually unprecedented in the NHS.

“Today is a very dark day for Northampton General Hospital and a bleak stain on the NHS.78 pathologists –more used to helping those in need –have been barred from entering the workplace for exercising their legal right to take industrial action.

“Our members have a right to stand up and have their issues heard without threat and abuse. They are understandably upset at the risk of losing up to £6,000 a year and of having their work-life balance thrown into disarray while the trust blows up to £1 million a year on eight agency biomedical scientists.

“Unite is calling on the trust to abandon its bully-boy tactics and to sit down with ACAS to settle this dispute. It’s bad enough for an employer to force its will by locking out a workforce but when that employer is the NHS it is truly shocking.”

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.