NHS patients in Blackburn and Burnley are being warned that test results may be delayed and other services affected, as biomedical scientists employed by East Lancashire NHS Trust begin three weeks of strike action today (Monday 31 May), in a dispute over unpaid back pay.

Three week strike

The strike, involving 21 biomedical scientists who are members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, is a result of the trust failing to honour an agreement made in 2019 to upgrade the scientists from band 5 to band 6 on the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale. 

The affected workers are owed back pay between several hundred pounds to £8,000. The underpayment problem dates back to 2010 for some of the affected scientists.

Royal Blackburn Hospital 

The workers who are based at the Royal Blackburn Hospital but also work at Burnley General Teaching Hospital have been striking during night, weekend and late shifts from 7 May. The scientists have now embarked on three weeks of continuous strike action which began at 00:01 today (Monday 31 May) and will end at 06:59 Monday 21 June.

Unite has warned that the strike action will increase pressure on whether the accident and emergency department at the Royal Blackburn Hospital will be able to remain fully open.

Additional costs

Unite believes that it would be cheaper for the trust to resolve the dispute than the costs incurred for paying staff to cover the strike. It would cost just £50,000 to resolve the dispute, while it will cost the trust around £40,000 a month in paying overtime and additional shifts to non-Unite members, as well as the cost of  managers who have been brought in to break the strike.

Disruption inevitable

Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said: “The strike action will inevitably cause disruption across NHS East Lancashire Trust. But our members feel they have been left with no other option, as management has reneged on its promise to pay the money owed.

 “It is absolutely astonishing that the trust’s management have failed to resolve the underpayment of key workers for over a decade. Adding insult to injury, they somehow think it is appropriate to renege on the deal they agreed to in 2019 that would have resolved the problem.

 “The trust has said that it is not prepared to negotiate and has bizarrely admitted to having put £150,000 of taxpayers’ money aside to undermine the dispute.

 “Our members have faced unprecedented challenges since the beginning of the pandemic and their only reward is to be denied being paid the money that they have been rightly promised.

 “Rather than wasting taxpayers’ money, the trust’s management need to drop their macho posturing, return to the negotiating table and agree to pay our members the money they are owed.”


Notes to editors:

 NHS bosses waste taxpayers’ money on prolonging Lancashire biomedical scientist pay upgrade dispute, says Unite

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]unitetheunion.org

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