Pathology staff threaten walkout in row over changes to shift patterns

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PATHOLOGY workers at Leeds hospitals could take industrial action over a dispute about working arrangements.

Negotiations are underway between unions and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust in a bid to avoid a strike.

The long-running row involves proposed changes to terms and conditions for staff, mainly biomedical scientists, who carry out tests vital for the running of the hospitals.

Terry Cunliffe, from the union Unite, said they wanted to avoid a strike but their members were worried about the safety of patients and workers as a result of the changes.

More than 140 workers, based at laboratories at Leeds General Infirmary, St James’s Hospital and Bradford Royal Infirmary but employed by Leeds hospitals, are affected.

The dispute centres around changes to their working patterns from standard day working and employees being on-call on the hospital site to a shift working arrangement.

Hospital bosses say they need to make changes because the arrangement differs from all other hospitals, with a small number of workers at Leeds being paid more and having more rest periods.

They say that changes must be made as the hospitals trust needs to cut costs because of dwindling NHS budgets.

In a report to directors of the hospital trust’s board, new interim chief executive Chris Reed said he had met staff to hear their concerns.

“From these meetings I know that staff understand that if there is to be any industrial action, which we would much prefer to avoid, that safe emergency services must be provided.”

At a board meeting, trust chief operating officer Mark Smith said they had emphasized that the proposals needed to go ahead.

Mr Cunliffe said they were still discussions ongoing about emergency cover in the event of a strike.

He said their members were concerned that if new rotas were not planned properly, they may not be enough staff or staff with the correct skills to complete work properly.

“Our concerns are about the safety of our members, and the safety of patients,” he said.

There were financial implications too, he added, but patient safety was the paramount issue.

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