Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union said that the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is facing a retention crisis as underpaid scientists are voting with their feet and moving to other trusts in the north-west.
Now the 13 biomedical scientists, who carry out vital tests once patients have been admitted to hospital with Covid-19, will be balloted from November 9 for strike action or industrial action short of a strike.
The crux of the dispute is that the biomedical scientists have been held back on Band 5 (AfC), despite qualifying for Band 6 (just under £38,000-a-year) due to working unsupervised for a number of years. The majority of Unite’s 13 members have lost about £7,000 annually as Band 5 pays about £30,000.
Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said: “Our biomedical scientists have had years of training and are highly skilled, but are not paid a fortune. They are in the frontline of carrying Covid-19 related tests once patients are admitted to hospital.
“Yet, we have a hardline trust management that is not prepared to pay ‘the going rate for the job’ for essential NHS workers at a time of national emergency.
“This issue has been dragging on for over a year. At the start of the pandemic earlier this year, our members, as an act of good faith, put this dispute on the backburner.
“When the number of infections dropped in the summer, we raised this issue again – but have been met by a brick wall from a skinflint management. Our members are being ripped off and short-changed which is not a great advert for this trust.
“The result is that we have a retention crisis at the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust as our members are voting with their feet and move to trusts, such as in Blackpool and Blackburn, which appreciate their skills and dedication during this challenging time for the NHS - and pay the proper rate for the job.
“Now, reluctantly, our members will be balloted for industrial action. However, there is a generous window of opportunity for the management to resolve this dispute and Unite’s door is open 24/7 for constructive talks.”
The trust covers Chorley and South Ribble Hospital, and the Royal Preston Hospital.
A spokesperson for Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said:“There have been some issues raised with us around terms and conditions and pay for our pathology workforce.
"These issues are taken very seriously and we have rigorous internal processes in place to ensure they are addressed accordingly.”