Coming on top of redundancies forced on NPL by a recent cut in government funding for specific areas of measurement, the remaining staff are reeling at the latest decision to impose the pay freeze.
Prospect, the union representing specialists at the laboratory, has reacted with dismay. As an international support services group, Serco is valued at £2.7bn and recently announced record profits up 34% to £194.7m.
Prospect Negotiations Officer Bob King said: “Quite frankly, the diminishing commitment shown by Serco to the future of NPL is causing grave concern. It made no effort to try and stop the recent redundancies, which saw the loss of highly skilled staff and left remaining staff demoralised and fearful over the laboratory’s future.
“Added to a slow dilution of time and attention shown to NPL by the Serco hierarchy, employees are faced with a “pay pause” despite increased living costs of around 3.7% and at a time when the parent company is enjoying massive profits.”
In recent months NPL’s funding from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) has been cut by £4.5m with internal communications warning staff to expect more in the near future.
King said: “If we continue to lose skills at this rate there will be no scientific structure left to underpin the country’s economic recovery. The input of staff at NPL is estimated to benefit the economy by some £2bn every year. It is acknowledged by industry as absolutely vital to economic growth in the UK.
“To axe jobs and then hit the salaries of those left will further undermine confidence and see more people rush for the door. If Serco persists with this pay freeze it will make a mockery of promises they made after securing the management contract in 2003 of a ‘bold new vision for the laboratory’ and claims that NPL was ‘never more relevant to the nation’s prosperity’.”
King said that members do not want to take industrial action but, given their fears over the laboratory’s future, felt they had little choice. “We look to Serco and the NPL board to think again about their staff and come up with a sensible response to genuine concerns.”
NPL is the UK’s National Measurement Institute and a centre of excellence for developing the most accurate measurement standards, science and technology to underpin UK industry.