Burnley biomedical scientists strike again today

Blackburn and Burnley biomedical scientists re-started strike action today (Wednesday) in a dispute over unpaid wages.

The striking scientists
The striking scientists

Unite Union negotiators met with the Trust on Tuesday last week in an attempt to identify a solution to the dispute in what the union described as an opportunity to avoid further strike action and to re-establish union/Trust relations. On the eve of the strike, the Trust had still failed to take up the opportunity to end the dispute.

Unite claims the skilled NHS staff at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust are owed on average between £8,000 and £12,000.

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Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Last week Unite met with the Trust with an offer to work constructively to get a deal to resolve this strike. Instead our offer has been met with a stubborn unwillingness to end the dispute.

“The Trust’s chief executive Martin Hodgson has the failed the staff, the patients, and he’s failed the taxpayer.

"The biomedical scientists are taking action because they have a genuine, legitimate, fair and reasonable case and they have Unite's unwavering support. This dispute will now go ahead and our campaign will escalate."

The scientists have already been on strike in two periods this year between May 31st and July 28th and between August 20th and November 11th.

The dispute centres on unpaid wages owed to the scientists by the Trust for the period between 2010 and 2019. The workers have been paid at a band 6 on the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale since 2019. However, at varying stages the workers became eligible to be paid at band 6 since 2010.

Unite negotiated a deal for the workers to be paid what they were owed in 2019 but the Trust reneged on the deal, according to the union.

Speaking last week, Mr Hodgson said: “It is simply not true to say that we are refusing to engage. We are actively trying to make progress and often we are ignored. UNITE refuses to go to binding arbitration and new evidence provided has been reviewed. We are, of course, open to discussing how we can resolve and conclude this. I have spoken to and written to both the union and pathology colleagues a number of times, often without acknowledgement or response.

“It is also not true to say we have reneged on an agreement. Colleagues submitted their grievance in May 2019 and when they were rebanded they received back pay to that date. There was never any agreement to provide back pay before then and this is in line with national policy.

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“In the meantime I am aware of the impact this is having on the team. We have contingency plans in place to ensure the safe provision of pathology services but the protracted dispute is having a detrimental effect on colleagues, patients and visitors at a time when the Trust is experiencing crippling pressures and demand for services.”