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

A STRIKE at two East Lancashire hospitals could be extended into the Autumn with a new ballot being held.

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

The action had been due to end on Wednesday July 28, however the new ballot which opens on July 21 and closes on July 27 could see the strike extended for several months.

Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said: “Our members are holding a second ballot for strike action as all our attempts to reach an agreement have been thwarted by the management’s dogmatism, the flagrant bending of the truth and a failure to enter into meaningful negotiations under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas.

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

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

The union says the dispute arose after managers failed to honour an agreement in 2019 to upgrade them from band five to band six on the Agenda for Change scale.

However, East Lancashire Health Trust has said that its employees have already been rebanded and that any claims for further back pay would be considered on an individual basis.

ELHT operational director of HR Kate Quinn said: “We’ve taken part in conciliation talks with union colleagues representing Unite this week which were facilitated by an independent chairperson from ACAS to try and resolve this dispute.

“Unfortunately we still have not reached an agreement.

“Industrial 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 continue to support everyone affected and we do want to resolve this as soon as possible so that the team can return to normal.

“But 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.”


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