Biomedical scientists at a Lancashire NHS trust will strike until the middle of November in an upgrading pay row, as the bosses drag their feet over holding constructive talks, Unite the union said today (Friday 13 August).

The 21 biomedical scientists at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust were on strike between 31 May and 28 July – and are set to resume strike action on Friday 20 August which will then run through until Thursday 11 November. At five-and-half months this would be one of the longest-running industrial disputes currently in the UK.

Unite said that it had asked for a meeting with the trust by 30 July, but these talks  will now take place on Thursday 9 September which the union said was clear evidence of the management’s lack of interest in resolving this dispute.

Unite said that the trust management was more intent on spending tens of thousands of pounds on breaking the dispute than honouring the 2019 pay upgrade deal that they originally agreed to.

Unite said the trust’s actions were at the expense of patients needing speedy and efficient analysis of blood examples during the continuing pandemic at the Royal Blackburn Hospital and the Burnley General Teaching Hospital.

Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said: “Our members have voted to strike until November as they have been met by a dogmatic management intent on wastefully racking up thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to break this strike, rather than do the honourable thing and stick to the 2019 agreement to pay the upgrade that was promised.

“This is the worst example of macho-management and unworthy of the ethos underpinning the NHS.

“We are due to hold to hold negotiations with the management on 9 September, despite asking for them by 30 July – we regard this date, nearly a month away, as stark evidence of the trust’s lack of resolve and interest in reaching a settlement. There is no sense of urgency by the management.

“We estimate that the sum spent on undermining this strike by paying overtime to non-union biomedical scientists and bringing in managers could reach more than £150,000 – three times the cost of paying the biomedical scientists what was agreed.

“The irony of this dispute is that the 2019 agreement was aimed at dealing with the ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis in the biomedical scientist profession. We believe that the public, who have given our members magnificent support over the last three months, will find this refusal to engage inexplicable at a time of national crisis.”

The biomedical scientists voted by a majority of 89 per cent in favour of the latest round of strike action until November.

Unite said that its 21 members were owed back pay of between several hundred pounds to £8,000, as managers had not honoured the 2019 agreement to upgrade them from band 5 to band 6 on the Agenda for Change (AfC) scale. The back pay issue goes back as far as 2010 for some members.

ENDS 

Notes to editors:

Unite said that it negotiated an agreement at the end of 2019 for the uplift with the trust management in a bid 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 AfC scale.

Unite said that after the upgrade was agreed with the trust it was then put ‘on hold’ as an act of goodwill during the worst of the pandemic – but now the management is refusing to honour the deal and pay the difference between bands 5 and 6. This amounts from several hundred pounds up to £8,000, depending on an individual’s circumstances.

Band 6 is about £38,000-a-year and is for working unsupervised for a number of years. Band 5 pays about £30,000.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

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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.