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 began three weeks of strike action on Monday (May 31), in a dispute over unpaid back pay.
The strike, involving 21 biomedical scientists who are members of Unite, 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.
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 May 7. The scientists have now embarked on three weeks of continuous strike action which began just past midnight on Monday (May 31) and will end at 6.59am, Monday, June 21.
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.
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.
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,” he added. “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,” Hutson continued.
“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.”
By Barckley Sumner