WORKFORCE: NHS pathology staff at Northampton General Hospital will be returning to work on Monday after a settlement was reached over a long running contract dispute.

Some 55 employees were locked out of the hospital’s pathology laboratory on 27 June after voting on action short of a strike in response to a new contract which would see some workers face pay reductions and more night shifts.

Talks mediated by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service on 23 July resulted in a negotiated settlement between the trust and trade union Unite, on behalf of the staff.

The agreement will see changes to the pathology staff contracts, effective from March next year. 

Neither the hospital nor Unite would comment any further on the nature of the deal reached.

The lock out began last month after biomedical scientists and support staff refused to sign a new contract which the union said would see some suffer a £6,000 pay cut, and leave staff working twice as many night shifts.

Unite last week pledged to take legal action against the trust after it used temporary staff to replace the team it had barred from entering the pathology laboratory.

The union accused Northampton General of breaching regulation 7 of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations 2003 in which an employer cannot replace an individual taking part in an official industrial dispute with temporary staff.

The trust told HSJ at the time that it was “disappointed” by Unite’s legal action.

A trust spokesman said that the trust had been “forced” to source alternative labour in order to maintain the quality of services within the trust.

He said: “As a result of the industrial action currently being taken by members of Unite, the trust has been forced to source alternative labour in order to maintain the provision and quality of pathology services within the trust.

“The industrial action by Unite is in response to the trust’s desire to bring the terms and conditions of pathology staff in line with nationally agreed terms.”