Strike is avoided

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LABORATORY staff at Wigan Infirmary will not take strike action despite being unhappy at changes to contracts which will see them move to Salford Royal Hospital and be forced to take pay cuts.

After months of fraught negotiations between hospital chiefs and union officials, the pathology staff at Wigan Infirmary are said to be at a stage of “reluctant acceptance” of the trust’s final offer.

Some 60 staff, who are employed by Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust (SRFT), conduct all diagnostic tests (such as blood and urine samples) at all three Wigan hospitals and Salford Royal Hospital.

Unite regional officer Gary Owen said: “We are at a position of reluctant acceptance of the latest offer from the trust. Our members narrowly rejected their final offer, but industrial action has not been approved and there is no indication that this will change. We are in a better place than we first started negotiations but not where our members want us to be.”

In September last year staff voted to strike over plans to slash the pay and terms and conditions by up to £6,000 a year, which union bosses say was the last straw for most staff.

However, after union chiefs agreed to stall any strike action so negotiations could continue, employees have once again voted to reject the latest improved offer put forward.

They have also endured a three-year pay freeze, a cut in payments for working unsocial hours and imposed increases in their pension contributions say Unite.

There has also previously been criticism from some experts about the medical and logistical sense in sending blood and other samples 15 miles through heavy traffic to Salford for tests that are currently carried out on site at Wigan.

There have also been concerns about the existing IT system used at Salford, which staff have said is too old-fashioned to cope with the large workload predicted in the coming years.

A spokesman for Pathology at Wigan and Salford said: “We are really pleased that we have been able to reach an agreement with staff and avoid industrial action on both sites. We now look forward to working with staff to develop Pathology at Wigan and Salford, ensuring we continue to provide a safe and high quality service to our patients and GPs.”