Biomedical scientists at a Lancashire NHS trust are being re-balloted for strike action in an upgrading pay row, after bosses failed to ‘meaningfully engage’ in talks with Acas, the conciliation service.

The 21 biomedical scientists at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust have been on strike since 31 May and that action is due to end on Wednesday 28 July. The strike ballot opens on Wednesday 21 July and closes on Tuesday 27 July and could result in industrial action into the autumn.

The crux of the dispute is the ‘bad faith’ that the trust management has shown when it reneged on the 2019 pay upgrade deal that it originally agreed to.

Unite has accused the trust’s bosses of embracing ‘a culture of macho-management and hubris’ at the expense of patients needing speedy and efficient analysis of blood examples during the pandemic at the Royal Blackburn Hospital and the Burnley General Teaching Hospital.

Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said: “Our members are holding a second ballot for strike action as all our attempts to reach an agreement have been thwarted by the management’s dogmatism, the flagrant bending of the truth and a failure to enter into meaningful negotiations under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas.

“The trust management would prefer to spend tens of thousands of pounds of hard-pressed taxpayers’ money undermining this strike, rather than pay the upgrade they themselves agreed to in 2019 – there is no logic to their position. We estimate that this sum could reach £150,000 – three times the cost of paying the biomedical scientists what was agreed by the management in 2019.

“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 two months, will find this refusal to engage inexplicable at a time of national crisis.

“Our members are reluctantly holding a second strike ballot which could mean, if successful, industrial action into the autumn. However, we are keen to avoid that outcome and Unite’s door  is open 24/7  for constructive talks – and, once more,  we invite the trust management to show a maturity that they have failed so far to demonstrate in getting around the table and resolving this dispute.”

The trust’s hardline stance was further underlined by its HR director Kevin Moynes who wrote to Unite’s members claiming: “The Trust’s view remains that no further monies are owed to those colleagues currently taking industrial action.” 

The union has also written to the GPs, who refer patients for blood samples, asking for their support to put pressure on the trust to resolve the dispute.

Unite said that its 21 members were owed back pay of between several hundred pounds to £8,000, as managers had failed to honour an agreement in 2019 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.


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.