Hardline NHS bosses at a Lancashire NHS trust have, so far, spurned the offer of any talks, including under the auspices of conciliation service Acas, to resolve the biomedical scientists’ upgrading pay row.
As a result, Unite the union said that the 21 biomedical scientists at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust will hold a month of strike action from June 21 to July 28, following on the current strike action that started on May 31 and ends on June 21.
The crux of the dispute is the ‘bad faith’ that the trust management has shown when it reneged on the 2019 pay upgrade deal that it originally agreed to.
Unite accused the trusts bosses of embracing ‘a culture of macho-management and hubris’ at the expense of patients needing speedy and efficient analysis of blood examples at the Royal Blackburn Hospital and the Burnley General Teaching Hospital.
Unite said that it will ask the trust, under the Freedom of Information legislation, how much it was spending to undermine the strike by paying overtime for extra shift payments to non-Unite biomedical scientists, as well drafting in managers. The union estimates that the sum could reach £150,000 – three times the cost of paying the biomedical scientists what was agreed by the management at the end of 2019.
The union has also written to the GPs, who refer patients for blood samples, asking for their support to put pressure on the trust to resolve this dispute.
Unite said that its 21 members were owed back pay of between several hundred pounds to £8,000, as managers had failed to honour an agreement in 2019 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.
Unite deputy regional secretary Debbie Brannan said, “We are dealing with a trust management steeped in a culture of macho-management and hubris who would prefer to spend tens of thousands of pounds of hard-pressed taxpayers’ money undermining this strike, rather than pay the upgrade they themselves agreed to in 2019 – there is no logic to their position.
“We have offered on numerous occasions to sit down and talk, including under the auspices of Acas, to resolve this dispute, but, so far, we have had no response from the trust,” she added. “The public, who have given our members magnificent support, will find this refusal to talk inexplicable at a time of national crisis.
“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,” Brennan continued.
“We have announced a further month of strike action which will end on 28 July. If the dispute is not settled by then, we will reballot for strike action that could see this dispute go into the autumn.
“Unite’s door for talks is open 24/7 – we invite the trust management to walk through that door – what are they waiting for?”
By Shaun Noble