National lab staff ballot on strike action


National lab staff ballot on strike action

The threat of industrial action at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has moved a step closer after Prospect issued specialists at the lab with ballot papers in a dispute over a proposed pay freeze.

Staff reacted with dismay earlier this month when operating company Serco tabled a 0% pay offer couched as a “pay pause” despite a recent announcement from the international support services group which placed its value at £2.7bn with record profits up 34% to £194.7m.

Staff are being balloted on strike action and action short of a strike. The result of the ballot will be announced on May 11.

News of the pay freeze comes shortly after a raft of redundancies forced on NPL by a £4.5m cut in funding for specific areas of measurement by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Internal communications have warned staff to expect more in the near future.

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 scientists and left remaining staff demoralised and fearful over the laboratory’s future.

“Now it plans to reward the remaining staff with a ‘pay pause’ despite increased living costs of around 4.4% and at a time when the parent company is enjoying massive profits. This risks a further rush to the door.

“But if NPL continue to lose skills at this rate there will be no scientific structure left to underpin the UK’s economic recovery. The input by staff at the laboratory 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.”

King said a strong yes vote in the ballot will enable the union to put pressure on the NPL and Serco boards to reverse the decision to freeze pay.

“Staff deserve better treatment and it is hoped that the resolve of members to take some form of industrial action will make the leadership of Serco realise it has made a serious error of judgement and step back from the brink.”

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.