Industrial action is on the cards by pathologists in West Hertfordshire who face losing £10,000 a year in one of the most expensive places to live outside London, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, has warned.

More than 50 biomedical scientists and laboratory assistants, who work for West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, have voted unanimously in a consultative ballot that they would be prepared to take industrial action over the threat to have £10,000 lopped off their salary in October.

The dispute centres on plans by the trust bosses to get rid of the local ‘out of hours’ agreement and replace it with the national Agenda for Change pay scales for the pathologists who do vital screening and blood tests for potentially deadly conditions, as lone workers serving the entire hospital.

This will also affect GPs who request blood tests for their patients and Unite fears family doctors will be charged if these services are privatised in 2021 as the privately-owned labs will want to maximise profits for their shareholders.

The trust covers Watford General Hospital, St Albans City Hospital and Hemel Hempstead Hospital.

Unite argues that the £10,000 ‘hit’ to a biomedical scientist’s average salary of £35,000 annually is too much to bear in one go, especially because of the very high cost of living in Hertfordshire which is strongly influenced by its proximity to the capital.

This is a further attack on incomes after the last reduction in ‘out of hours’ payments in 2010.

Unite said the management had an opportunity to enter into constructive talks before its members meet to discuss the next steps in their campaign early next month.

Unite regional officer Jeff Hodge said: “Central to this dispute is the very high cost of living in the area covered by the trust, such as the cost of property in Watford, as it borders London.

“We don’t believe that our members can reasonably be expected to lose £10,000 from their incomes in October in one fell swoop.

“The trust is also keen to put the pathology service out to tender to private healthcare companies in April 2021 and we don’t want what is now proposed as the start of a race to the bottom for the pay, and terms and conditions of our pathology members.

“They have already voted by 100 per cent in a consultative ballot that they would be prepared to take industrial action to defend their pay.

"Members will meet early in May to decide whether they wish to mount a full scale industrial action ballot that could include the option for strike action.

“However, there is now a window open for the trust’s management to enter into constructive talks with Unite to reach a fair settlement on this issue.”


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065

  •  Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.