Covid Scotland: Unite condemns threat to 745 Glasgow Lighthouse Lab jobs as public health risk

A union leader has claimed that the health of the public could be placed at risk if plans to axe 745 jobs at Scotland’s top Covid testing laboratories are followed through.
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Unite confirmed that it has demanded urgent intervention from the First Minister and Scottish Government ministers over the future of the Glasgow Lighthouse Lab.

The union, which represents the workforce including sample handlers and lab technicians, has expressed concerns about the public health impact of the decision by both the Scottish and UK governments to abolish testing at the lab.

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Last week, Glasgow University which hosts the lab on the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus, was left with no alternative other than to enter into a formal 45-day consultation period on redundancies with Unite due to the lack of funding and pending contracts.

The Glasgow Lighthouse Lab is Scotland's flagship Covid-19 testing facility.The Glasgow Lighthouse Lab is Scotland's flagship Covid-19 testing facility.
The Glasgow Lighthouse Lab is Scotland's flagship Covid-19 testing facility.

If no resolution can be found it is anticipated that contractual notice will be served on around 745 experienced and highly skilled employees with contracts terminating as early as May 14.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary said: “The Glasgow Lighthouse Lab workforce is at the heart of protecting public health in Scotland and at a time when Covid rates continue to run high, it is a disgrace that hundreds of highly skilled jobs, knowledge and experience is potentially going to be lost.

“Unite is determined to protect our members and will explore every option, including legal ones, to fully defend their jobs, pay and conditions.”

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From as far back as December 2021, Unite has repeatedly sought assurances over funding for the Glasgow Lighthouse Lab from government ministers.

An eleventh hour agreement by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to extend the contract with Glasgow University until September 2022 was agreed with the workforce being advised that their roles would be safe until then.

It is understood that there is currently a tender process ongoing for residual “resilience/surge” testing work, as well as work for the Office of National Statistics.

It is estimated that this work would only retain around 120 roles.

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Dr Sandesh Gulhane, Scottish Conservative Shadow Health Secretary, said the move was 'unacceptable'.

He added: "We should have a plan to retain and redeploy expertise, not simply show them the door."

A spokeswoman for the UKHSA said the end of routine covid testing will result in a 'significant drop in laboratory demand'.

She added: "Discussions remain ongoing around the role that the Glasgow laboratory will play as part of the resilience built into the laboratory network and our plans for contingency capacity".

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A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "We are in close contact with the University and are aware of its consultation with staff and trade unions on potential job losses relating to the cessation of UK Government-held testing contracts and are disappointed that the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has not been able to provide further clarity on future activity.

"The Scottish Government is working with the University to enable it to support all staff involved to find where necessary, alternative employment opportunities either with their existing employer or with another employer or sector.

"We are actively engaging with trade unions to ensure whatever approach is taken in future has the workforce at the heart of those discussions."

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