Covid: Union calls for action over threat to ax nearly 750 jobs from Glasgow Lighthouse Lab

A union is calling on the Scottish Government to step in after it emerged nearly 750 jobs are at risk at Scotland’s flagship covid testing site.

Unite said the axing of 745 lab technicians and sample handlers at the Lighthouse Lab, in Glasgow, could risk public health when infection rates remain high.

The lab at the University of Glasgow’s campus at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital is dedicated to the mass testing of samples of coronavirus.

It plays a crucial part in Scotland’s defense against the virus, however workers there could soon be made redundant.

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.”

Due to the lack of funding and contracts the university was forced into a 45-day consultation on redundancies last week, according to Unite.

If no solution can be found employees at the lab could have their contracts terminated on May 14.

Alison MacLean, the regional officer for Unite, said: “There has been no commitment from the Scottish Government to extend the funding or redeploy this critically important workforce.

“Covid numbers, hospitalization and deaths have increased in Scotland, and notwithstanding the future impact of Covid variants, this serious uncertainty for 745 workers is bewildering and dangerous.”

An agreement was reached with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to extend the contract with the lab until September 2022, however Unite say that it has been reneged upon.

A spokeswoman for the UKHSA said: “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.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Glasgow Lighthouse Lab has been a high performing lab throughout the Covid-19 response and we are grateful to staff for their dedication and hard work.

“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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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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