Northampton Hospital lab staff set to remain in dispute

A dispute involving 56 staff in the pathology department at Northampton General Hospital is set to continue.

Talks aimed at finding a solution to a row over pay and night shift working broke down on Thursday.

Hospital chief executive Dr Sonia Swart said discussions were "not fruitful" and no further talks were planned.

Unite said a hospital ultimatum to work normally or stay away amounted to a lock-out and the union wanted to take part in "meaningful negotiations".

Pathology staff carry out blood tests and other sample processing around the clock at the hospital and 80 of them are still at work.

Bosses want the staff to work 14 instead of seven night shifts every 14 weeks with reduced unsocial hours pay.

Unsocial hours row

Staff could not agree to losing £6,000 pay and were "locked out", Unite said.

Dr Swart said: "We continue to turn around tests within target timescales.

"There has been a lot of scaremongering about this, so I would like to clarify that 90-93% of samples are being turned around in under an hour, whereas pre-strike action it was 93%-95%.

"As a former clinical director for pathology, I know the challenges the service faces only too well and it saddens me that we have come to this position.

"Ultimately, it would be wrong of me or the board not to ensure that we use taxpayers' money wisely or to reward some groups more generously than others for the work that is done during 'unsocial' hours."

The Unite union denied its members were on strike although a 24-hour stoppage had been planned for 7 July but did not take place.

The union insisted its members had been locked out from their place of work.

Correction 14 July: This story has been amended to make clear that Unite said a planned 24-hour stoppage on 7 July by its members did not go ahead.

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