SCIENTISTS at two East Lancashire hospitals have begun three weeks of strike action.

The biomedical scientists who work at Royal Blackburn and Burnley General Hospitals say that they have taken this course of action in protest at unpaid back pay.

As such the 21 scientists, who are members of the Unite union, began picketing Royal Blackburn on Monday May 31, where they intend to stay until Monday June 21.

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.

"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."

According to the union representing the scientists, the agreement in 2019 was meant to upgrade the scientists from band 5 to band 6 on the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale.

Mr Hutson said: “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.

“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.”

However, East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust has said that the scientists have in fact been rebanded and that back pay was paid from the date the grievance was lodged in line with NHS' agenda for change programme.

They have said that any further claims will be considered on an individual basis.

Operational director of human resources and organisational development Kate Quinn said: “This action is the latest phase of an ongoing dispute between the Trust and some of our Biomedical Scientists, which has been a long and difficult process for all involved.

“I would like to reassure members of the public and our colleagues that our Emergency Care services will continue to be provided during this course of action.

"Contingency measures will be in place to ensure that all urgent tests will be processed in the usual timely manner.

“The wellbeing of our workforce is also of the utmost importance and we are supporting all of our colleagues who are directly or indirectly affected by the industrial action.”