Biomedical scientists in the frontline of Covid-19 testing at a Lancashire NHS trust, who are losing about £7,000-a-year, will be ‘working to rule’ for three months which will delay the analysis of samples.

The biomedical scientists have voted unanimously for industrial action as hardline bosses at the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust refuse to pay ‘the going rate for the job’.

The 14 biomedical scientists, members of Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, carry out vital tests once patients have been admitted with Covid-19 at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital, and the Royal Preston Hospital.

The ‘work to rule’ will start on Monday 7 December until Sunday 28 February 2021, and will affect late and night shifts as well as weekend working.

Unite called today (Tuesday 24 November) on the trust management to enter into talks to tackle the retention crisis which has seen underpaid biomedical scientists voting with their feet and moving to other trusts in the north west that pay the correct Agenda for Change (AfC) pay rate.

The crux of the dispute is that the biomedical scientists have been held back on Band 5 (AfC), despite qualifying for Band 6 (just under £38,000-a-year) due to working unsupervised for a number of years. The majority of Unite’s 14 members have lost about £7,000 annually as Band 5 pays about £30,000.

Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said: “Our biomedical scientists, who have had years of training and are highly skilled, have voted unanimously for industrial action.

“Because of the Covid-19 crisis, they have decided to ‘work to rule’ rather than take strike action to make their point without affecting priority samples being analysed, although delays will occur for more routine ones. The action will affect late and night shifts as well as weekend working.

“It will mean that our members currently on Band 5 of Agenda for Change will strictly adhere to that job description and will not act up to do the responsibilities of those on Band 6.

“We have a hardline trust management that is not prepared to pay ‘the going rate for the job’ for essential NHS workers even at a time of national emergency.

“This issue has been dragging on for over a year. At the start of the pandemic earlier this year, our members, as an act of good faith, put this dispute on the backburner.

“When the number of infections dropped in the summer, we raised this issue again – but have been met by a brick wall from a tight-fisted management. Our members have been ripped off and short-changed over a long period of time which is not a great advert for this trust.

“The result is that we have a retention crisis at the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust as our members are voting with their feet and move to trusts, such as in Blackpool and Blackburn, which pay the proper rate for the job.

“Now is the time for the trust management to do the right thing and pay our members the proper rate for the job – we are open for constructive talks at any time to achieve this goal.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.