A union has threatened Northampton General Hospital with legal action over claims that agency staff, who have stepped in for striking scientists, are forming their own companies.
The blood test scientists have not been back to work for three weeks after refusing to accept an imposed £6,000 cut in out-of-hours pay and a proposal to double their night-time shift patterns
Unite, the UK’s largest union, has said this morning it has now lodged an injunction with the Administrative Court in London to stop NGH from using staff supplied through an employment agency to replace skilled biomedical staff.
The union claims it is the first time an NHS hospital has faced court proceedings over the use of temporary staff to” break a lawful industrial dispute.”
Unite said it is also “seriously concerned” that some replacement biomedical staff, supplied by an agency, are “setting themselves up as companies” in a bid to get around the law on the use of temporary staff in industrial disputes.
The regulations forbid the supply of “work-seekers provided by an employment business’ to perform the duties of striking staff.”
The subsequent response by NHS did not satisfy union bosses, leaving Unite, it said, with “no option but to commence legal proceedings”.
Barrie Brown, Unite national officer said: “We’re witnessing the first case of union-busting in the NHS, which is why Unite will do all in its power to prevent this intimidation.
“We now suspect the trust of playing semantics with the letter of the law by encouraging some agency workers to set themselves up as limited companies in a deliberate bid to circumvent Regulation 7.
“We again call on them to abandon this destructive course and work with us on a negotiated solution to this dispute.”
NGH said yesterday that the biomedical scientists and support staff who are out on strike number 54, although Unite put the number at 78.
Originally, they were locked out of work as hospital bosses claimed the scientists could not guarantee what work would or would not be done. They have since gone on official strike.