A STRIKE affecting Dewsbury District Hospital is under way after a deal to train ‘locums’ was rejected.
Eighteen medical laboratory assistants at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust began week-long industrial action on Tuesday.
The dispute is over a new rota which workers believe cannot be operated safely without more staff.
Medical laboratory assistants prepare patient samples for tests by biomedical scientists.
MP Paula Sherriff (Lab, Dewsbury and Mirfield) last week called for both sides to reach an agreement.
But talks broke down when Mid Yorkshire were accused of trying to plug gaps with ‘locums’ on so-called zero-hours contracts.
Unison regional organiser Jim Bell said: “The shortages are having a very bad effect on our members.
“Sickness levels are soaring and some are being forced to leave the job because of the enormous pressure they are under.
“Unison has assured the employer there will be emergency cover during the strike so patients are not put at risk.
“But our members rejected a management proposal where they said they would train ‘locums’ in the job and who would then be employed on zero hours contracts with no employment rights.
“They also claim that the staff shortages can be filled by existing staff working overtime.
“But that is part of the problem and is certainly not a solution. If they can afford to pay overtime they can afford to pay sufficient numbers of staff to do the work.
“Our members say they have been left with no alternative but to raise this dire situation in public through industrial action.”
Trust director of human resources Angela Wilkinson said: “The new rota arrangements for the medical laboratory assistants has been in operation for three weeks.
“We want to make sure these new rotas are put in place properly and we have offered extra staff at peak times of the day so this happens.
“The trust has also employed agency workers to fill gaps in service while we recruit to permanent vacancies. This ensures we can run the service and provide the necessary care to our patients.
“This has not been offered as a permanent solution. We will continue to work with Unison in an attempt to resolve this dispute.”
Pledge on shortfall
HEALTH bosses insist they are getting to grips with an expected £4m budget shortfall.
The North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) was required to make £10.2m of savings this year.
But they are on course to reduce spending by £6.2m amid the need to treat more patients.
A report for the CCG’s board said as a result there is a risk of failing to meet its duty to post a surplus of £3.6m this year.
But managers said steps, including the increased use of contingency funds, are being taken. A spokeswoman said: “Increased financial pressures and challenges are being experienced by the NHS nationally.
“The CCG is facing a challenging financial outlook in common with many other NHS organisations.
She added: “At this point in time the CCG are forecasting to achieve a one per cent surplus as required by NHS England in business planning rules.”