Sell-off fears behind up to 800 forensic job losses

Sell-off fears behind up to 800 forensic job losses

The new radical transformation plan for the Forensic Science Service is softening up the organisation for a sell-off, fears Prospect.

The transformation plans revealed a loss of between 30-40% of the workforce - up to 800 of the 1,900 staff - and a blueprint to restructure the service around specific disciplines, with possible site closures. FSS claims the plan is essential to make the business more competitive.

But of behalf of 1,300 scientists and other professionals within FSS, Prospect is concerned that the moves are designed to make the company more attractive to potential purchasers and claims the reliance on competitive tendering to expand the market for forensic services has been flawed from the start.

Prospect General Secretary Paul Noon said: “We will be scrutinising where these job losses fall to ensure this is not just an exercise to reduce the headcount leaving FSS denuded of the skills it needs.

"Our members take no pleasure in the fact the situation FSS finds itself in today is a direct result of flawed assumptions made in the 2003 McFarland review, which we warned against at the time but were supported by the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett.”

The McFarland review claimed that increased competition would result in more investment in forensic services. But with a market restricted primarily to the 43 police forces in England and Wales, the only way a competitive marketplace can grow is by encouraging the police to award forensic tenders to other suppliers, bringing new entrants to the market but reducing FSS business.

Said Prospect negotiator Mike Sparham: “Staff are shocked at the scale of the redundancies and the union is now seeking to minimise the cuts and ensure they are undertaken on a voluntary basis. The FSS’ status as the principle police supplier is now under threat, as its market share has fallen significantly since its establishment as a GovCo in 2005.”

Prospect says a restructured FSS will not work unless the Home Office restates its commitment to the service and takes a lead in developing the forensics market as a whole.

The union has also been told that all terms and conditions of employment are going to be looked at, including pensions.

No proposals have yet been tabled, but Sparham said: “We are willing to negotiate on any proposals but we will resist any attempt to impose significantly worse terms and conditions of employment on the staff remaining in the FSS. The recession should not be used cynically by the company to cut costs simply to make it more attractive to any future buyer.”