Medical laboratory scientists across Ireland have intensified their agitation for higher wages, urgent recruitment in vacancies, and better career development opportunities. Under the leadership of the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association (MLSA) which represents 2,100 medical scientists, the protesting laboratory scientists organized a strike on May 18 and called for further strike actions in the end of May and early June.
Adhering to the request made by the Labor Court on May 25, the MLSA temporarily suspended the strike actions and agreed to resume talks with the employers and the Department of Health/Health Service Executive (HSE). Activists, along with parliamentarians from Sinn Fein, People Before Profit and Socialist Party, have expressed support and solidarity for the agitation by the laboratory scientists.
According to reports, medical laboratory scientists went on strike following several unsuccessful rounds of talks with the HSE, the Department of Health, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and the Public Service Agreement Group. The MLSA stated that over 94% of its members voted in favor of the strike action. The major demand raised by them is parity in wages with that of the clinical biochemists. According to the MLSA, the salary of medical laboratory scientists is around 8% less than their colleagues in biochemistry doing similar work. The MLSA also claimed that up to 20% of the approved medical scientist posts in hospitals are unfilled as the role of laboratory diagnostics workers is expanding with increasing responsibilities and workload. The MLSA also complained that medical scientists have fewer career development opportunities and less support for training and education than colleagues in comparable fields.
MLSA chairperson Kevin O’Boyle said that “there is huge frustration and burn-out among Medical Scientists because of a severe recruitment and retention problems which have been ignored by the employer for many years.”
On May 25, Members of Parliament (MPs) from People Before Profit raised the issue of medical scientists in the Irish Parliament and stated that “medical scientists are some of the hidden heroes of our health service. For 21 years they have been promised pay parity, but still to this day they are paid 8% less than similarly qualified colleagues. This inequality needs to end.”
Pearse Doherty, MP from Sinn Fein, had stated earlier that “medical scientists are on strike today because of a basic lack of respect and recognition of the crucial role they play in the delivery of our health services. They are among the unsung heroes of the pandemic, they went beyond the call of duty but now the Government has left them sitting on the picket lines.”