A TRADE union boss joined forces with a group of biomedical scientists at a picket in Blackburn today.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, joined the scientists - who have been on strike over a pay grade dispute since May - outside Royal Blackburn Hospital.

The union represents 21 biomedical scientists at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, and the workers claim they are owed back pay of between several hundred pounds to £8,000 after managers failed to honour a 2019 agreement to upgrade their pay.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “I am joining the Blackburn and Burnley trust scientists on their picket line today because, quite simply, the trust management reneged on an agreed pay deal for these workers.

Lancashire Telegraph: SUPPORT: Sharon Graham showed her support for the striking scientistsSUPPORT: Sharon Graham showed her support for the striking scientists

 “Now it seems they are determined to save face, at any cost, by obstinately refusing to get back to the negotiating table.”

Unite claims that the amount the trust will spend on overtime for non-union staff will reach more than £150,000. In comparison, it would cost around £50,000 to pay the striking workers what was previously agreed.

She added: “Unite is there to defend the jobs, pay and conditions of its members. When their living standards are under attack, Unite will be unrelenting in defending their rights - including the biomedical scientists at the Blackburn and Burnley NHS Trust.

“They’ve been out for 17 weeks now. This is a dispute that was totally avoidable. If they’ve accepted that they [the workers] should be on grade six, they also accept that they should get the back-pay."

Lancashire Telegraph: TURNOUT: Lots of people attended the picket protestTURNOUT: Lots of people attended the picket protest


Martin Hodgson, interim chief executive of East Lancashire NHS Hospitals Trust, claimed that it is Unite who are unwilling to negotiate.

He said: “As ever with disagreements of this nature, there are different perspectives which can sometimes lead to different versions of events circulating.

“At this point it is important I also highlight the Trust’s responsibility to make sure that public money is used effectively.

“The legal advice we have had is that these colleagues are not legally entitled to any further back pay and this would not be considered to be an appropriate use of funds.

“This would also be the case for any further payments offered by the Trust to resolve this dispute.

Lancashire Telegraph: CAKE: Mrs Graham was presented with a cake that read: "NHS, Pay Us What You Owe Us"CAKE: Mrs Graham was presented with a cake that read: "NHS, Pay Us What You Owe Us"

 “Of course, not all of the team took part in the action and many continued to work, covering shifts and ensuring patient safety has not been compromised.

“To those who have worked extra shifts and the managers who stepped in to provide cover where necessary too I want to say a huge thank you. I would also like to thank our partner Trusts who have provided support and our GP colleagues for their cooperation.

“Those contingency measures have enabled urgent tests to be provided for those in our care who needed them.

Lancashire Telegraph: LISTENING: Sharon listened to the concerns of those and vowed to find a solution that works for allLISTENING: Sharon listened to the concerns of those and vowed to find a solution that works for all

“During the summer the Trust and Unite the Union have held conciliation talks to try and resolve the dispute, however there was no agreement as to a way forward.

“I have to admit I was disappointed last month to receive formal notification of further industrial action (which is now underway) and as a result made a formal request to Unite to enter into a process of arbitration, where an independent third party arbitrator makes a decision which is binding on both parties and, as a result, one way or another brings the dispute to an end.

“The Trust truly believes this is the best way forward as it would give everyone confidence that there will be a definite outcome to this dispute.

“In response, Unite has stated that it will not participate in Binding Arbitration.

“I know from feedback there are colleagues affected by this dispute who agree binding arbitration is the best way forward, and so the Trust has now formally asked for those affected to tell us their views and we’ll share the results with Unite.

“I really hope that it will lead to their agreement to enter into this process and we can start to move forward again.”