Biomedical scientists set for strike at Burnley and Blackburn hospitals

Biomedical scientists at Burnley and Blackburn hospitals will strike until the middle of November in an upgrading pay row.

Monday, 16th August 2021, 11:37 am
Some scientists are set to go on strike at Burnley General

The 21 biomedical scientists at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust were on strike between May 31st and July 28th – and are set to resume strike action on Friday August 20th which will then run through until Thursday November 11th. At five-and-half months this would be one of the longest-running industrial disputes currently in the UK.

Unite the union said that it had asked for a meeting with the Trust by July 30th, but these talks will now take place on Thursday September 9th which the union said was clear evidence of the management’s lack of interest in resolving this dispute.

Unite said that the Trust management was more intent on spending tens of thousands of pounds on breaking the dispute than honouring the 2019 pay upgrade deal that they originally agreed to.

Unite also said the Trust’s actions were at the expense of patients needing speedy and efficient analysis of blood examples during the continuing pandemic at the Royal Blackburn Hospital and the Burnley General Teaching Hospital.

Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said: “Our members have voted to strike until November as they have been met by a dogmatic management intent on wastefully racking up thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to break this strike, rather than do the honourable thing and stick to the 2019 agreement to pay the upgrade that was promised.

“This is the worst example of macho-management and unworthy of the ethos underpinning the NHS.

“We are due to hold to hold negotiations with the management on September 9th, despite asking for them by July 30th – we regard this date, nearly a month away, as stark evidence of the trust’s lack of resolve and interest in reaching a settlement. There is no sense of urgency by the management.

“We estimate that the sum spent on undermining this strike by paying overtime to non-union biomedical scientists and bringing in managers could reach more than £150,000 – three times the cost of paying the biomedical scientists what was agreed.

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

The biomedical scientists voted by a majority of 89% in favour of the latest round of strike action until November.

Unite said that its 21 members were owed back pay of between several hundred pounds to £8,000, as managers had not honoured the 2019 agreement 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.

Kate Quinn, Operational Director of HR at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “This action is the latest phase of an ongoing dispute between the Trust and some of our Biomedical Scientists, which has been a long and difficult process for all involved.

“This action has been ongoing for some weeks now and colleagues in this team have done an incredible job in ensuring patient safety is not compromised by working extra shifts and managers have also stepped in to cover too. We are continuing to support everyone affected and we do want to resolve this as soon as possible so that the team can return to normal.

“We’ve taken part in numerous talks with union colleagues representing Unite to try and resolve this dispute and have always expressed our willingness to keep discussions open.

The Trust remains confident we have followed a legal process with colleagues and to make further payments would not be appropriate. We will continue to work with everyone and hope to conclude this as soon as possible.”