NHS: Scientists at Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals could extend strike

A STRIKE in two hospitals in East Lancashire could be extended until the fall with the holding of a new ballot.

The 21 biomedical scientists at Royal Blackburn and Burnley General have been on strike since May 31, with Unite saying its members have back pay ranging from several hundred to £ 8,000.

The action was due to end on Wednesday July 28, but the new ballot which opens on July 21 and closes on July 27 could see the strike extended by several months.

Unite regional manager Keith Hutson said: “Our members are organizing a second ballot for strike action, because all our attempts to reach an agreement have been thwarted by management dogmatism, the blatant distortion of the truth and the failure to enter into meaningful negotiations under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas.

“The trust management would rather spend tens of thousands of pounds of hard-pressed taxpayer money to undermine this strike, rather than pay for the upgrade it itself agreed to in 2019, there is no logic in its position.

“We estimate that this sum could reach £ 150,000, which is three times the cost of paying biomedical scientists what was agreed by management in 2019.

“The irony of this dispute is that the 2019 agreement was intended to address the recruitment and retention crisis in the biomedical scientist profession.

“We believe the public, who have provided magnificent support to our members over the past two months, will find this refusal to engage inexplicable in a time of national crisis.”

The union says the dispute arose after managers failed to honor a deal in 2019 to move them from band five to band six on the Agenda for Change scale.

However, East Lancashire Health Trust said its employees had already been consolidated and any additional salary arrears would be considered on an individual basis.

ELHT’s operational director of human resources, Kate Quinn, said: “We participated in conciliation talks this week with union colleagues representing Unite, which were facilitated by an independent chairman of ACAS to try to resolve this dispute.

“Unfortunately, we still have not come to an agreement.

“Industry action has been going on for a few weeks now and colleagues on this team have done an incredible job of ensuring patient safety is not compromised by extra shifts and managers have stepped in to cover as well.

“We continue to support everyone involved and we want to resolve this issue as soon as possible so that the team can get back to normal.

“But confidence remains convinced that we have followed a legal process with colleagues and that it would not be appropriate to make additional payments.

“We will continue to work with everyone and hope to conclude this as soon as possible.”

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