Medical scientists warn over industrial action

Medical scientists warn over industrial action

The laboratory scientists who carry out critical diagnostic testing of patient samples in public voluntary hospitals, HSE hospitals, private hospitals, and the Irish Blood Transfusion Service are to debate a motion calling for industrial action at their AGM at the weekend. File picture

About 1,800 medical scientists, whose work includes testing for Covid-19, have warned industrial action may be on the cards in a long-running dispute over pay.

The laboratory scientists who carry out critical diagnostic testing of patient samples in public voluntary hospitals, HSE hospitals, private hospitals, and the Irish Blood Transfusion Service are to debate a motion calling for industrial action at their AGM at the weekend.

The move comes as medical scientists have seen workloads increase due to Covid-19 and there is national shortage of such scientists across the public health service, with up to 130 posts remaining unfilled.

Medical scientists, who have been pushing for parity with scientific colleagues who work in biochemistry laboratories for nearly two decades, are stressed and frustrated at the lack of progress, according to the general secretary of the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association (MLSA) Terry Casey.

Dispute dates back to 2002

The dispute dates back to 2002 and involves a claim for restoration of pay parity with scientific colleagues who work in biochemistry laboratories.

Mr Casey said the medical scientists carry out identical work with the same responsibilities and yet are paid on average 8% less, with fewer promotional and career development opportunities and less support for training and education.

"Medical scientists are in a situation where aides working in the same laboratories are on a higher start-up pay," he said. 

Medical scientists work 24/7, 365 days a year and their workload has increased because of Covid-19. There is a lot of stress attached to the job. The pandemic is now shedding a light on the importance of laboratory services."

He added: "Public sector health workers, from nurses, consultants to lab aides have secured significant pay increases in recent years. For medical scientists this, combined with the advancing role of laboratory diagnostics, increased responsibility, increased workloads and the longstanding challenges in recruitment and retention mean these employment issues need to be addressed with the HSE and the Departments of Health and Public Expenditure and Reform."

Pay discussions scheduled

Mr Casey said pay discussions have been scheduled with the HSE and the two Government departments but no date has been set for them to take place. 

He said the union was prepared to sit down at the table and added the claims of the medical scientists pre-date Covid and MLSA members are frustrated at the lack of progress.

"There is a significant national shortage of medical scientists across the public health service, with up to 130 posts unfilled before the additional pressures of the pandemic arose in 2020. The reasons for this are inferior pay and conditions, poor career structure and limited promotional opportunities," he said.

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