Biomedical scientists at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust will begin voting on whether to stage their third strike in a dispute over unpaid wages. Unite has pledged 'unstinting support' for its members in one of the longest running disputes currently in the UK.

The NHS workers have already been on strike in two periods this year between 31 May and 28 July and between 20 August and 11 November. But the Trust could avoid the prospect of a third strike over the Christmas period if it honours the agreement it reached with the workers back in 2019. The ballot opens today (23 November) and closes Tuesday 30 November.

The dispute centres on unpaid wages owed to the scientists by the Trust for the period between 2010 and 2019. The workers have been paid at a band 6 on the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale since 2019. However, at varying stages the workers became eligible to be paid at band 6 since 2010. The skilled NHS staff are owed on average between £8000 and £12,000. Unite negotiated a deal for the workers to be paid what they were owed in 2019 but the Trust reneged on the deal. The 21 biomedical scientists delayed taking industrial action during the height of the pandemic. 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "The biomedical scientists at Blackburn and Burnley can be assured that they have their union's unstinting support. The Trust is wasting valuable taxpayers money trying to break a strike all because the Trust broke its word. These highly skilled staff just want what they are owed. It’s time the Trust did the right thing by them.”

Last month the union submitted new detailed evidence to Martin Hodgson the Trust's Chief Executive which supports the workers' claim. The evidence includes an e-mail from Mr Hodgson from 2019 where he acknowledges that the uplift to band 6 applied to the biomedical scientists. 

Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said: "The Trust's refusal to engage is inexplicable despite the detailed evidence the union submitted last month. The Trust's actions continues to put the speedy and efficient analysis of blood examples at risk while the NHS is under enormous strain. Management could end this dispute in a stroke. It's clear management are putting its own agenda before the needs of patients, staff and the taxpayer."