Covid-19 scientists enter labour dispute

Fourteen biomedical scientists involved with Covid-19 testing at a Lancashire NHS trust have announced they will be ‘working to rule’ for three months, which will delay the analysis of samples.

The employees, supported by Unite, believe they are losing about £7,000-a-year, as the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will not pay ‘the going rate for the job’.

The scientists will 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.

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.

Keith Hutson, Unite regional officer, 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.

“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."

  • For further Lancashire business news, advice and analysis subscribe to Lancashire Business View or join the LBV Hub from just £2.50 per month. Click here to subscribe now.