NHS scientists to begin industrial action

A group of biomedical scientists working for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust will begin a month of strike action over a pay dispute.

The 21 scientists will stop doing night, weekend and late shifts, claiming that their employers reneged on agreement to upgrade their pay. They claim they they have been receiving band five pay while undertaking band six work.

Their union, Unite, says it negotiated an agreement at the end of 2019 for the upgrade, but the agreement was put ‘on hold’ as an act of goodwill during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, they say, management is refusing to honour the deal and pay the difference.

The union says that the money they believe is owed ranges between several hundred pounds up to £8,000 for the individuals involved. 

The biomedical scientists, who analyse patient blood samples at the Royal Blackburn Hospital and the Burnley General Teaching Hospital will strike continuously from Friday 7 May until Friday 4 June, after they voted by a majority of 85 per cent for strike action.

Keith Hutson, Unite regional officer, said: “Our biomedical scientists, who have had years of training and are highly skilled, have voted overwhelmingly for strike action which will adversely impact on how quickly patients’ samples can be analysed.

“It may mean that the accident and emergency department at the Royal Blackburn Hospital will have to close at night and weekends and ambulances with patients sent to other hospitals across the region, as there will be no one on duty to analyse samples. (Burnley General Teaching Hospital does not have an A&E department).

“The trust management has behaved with ‘bad faith’ in not honouring the agreement it made with our members at the end of 2019 to upgrade them as a means to tackle the recruitment and retention crisis that is affecting the profession."

Kate Quinn, operational director of human resources and organisational development for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “A collective grievance regarding pay banding was raised by some of our biomedical scientists some time ago. In an attempt to resolve this dispute the Trust agreed that it was fair and appropriate that those involved should be rebanded, which they now have been.

"The Trust also ensured these colleagues were placed on the appropriate point of that payscale to reflect their time served in that role. The Trust also agreed at the time that any claims for further back pay would be dealt with on an individual basis. The outcome of an appeal against the decision not to award back pay is imminent.   

"I would like to reassure our local residents, patients and staff that this will not impact our delivery of Emergency Care services at all. Should this action go ahead, we have ensured that all urgent tests will still be processed in the usual timely manner."

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