Two days of coordinated strike action by members of the GMB, UNISON and Unite unions involving 10,000 ambulance staff across nine trusts in England and Wales have been confirmed. The Health and Social Care Minister told Sky News that the unions have said that ambulance workers will still respond to cover life-threatening conditions.
The Secretary of State had previously expressed his disappointment at the outcome of the ballot for strike action which was confirmed on 30 November. He tweeted, “I deeply regret some ambulance staff will be taking industrial action – this is in nobody’s best interests as winter approaches. Economic circumstances mean unions demands are not affordable – each additional 1% pay rise for non-medical staff would cost around £700m a year.”
In July, the Government announced most NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts (NHS terms and conditions) in England would get a pay rise of £1,400 in line with the recommendation of the NHS pay review body. This amounted to a 4.75% increase to the NHS pay bill.
Commenting on confirmation of the strike dates, UNISON Head of Health Sara Gorton said,
“Ambulance staff and their health colleagues don’t want to inconvenience anyone. But ministers are refusing to do the one thing that could prevent disruption – that’s start genuine talks about pay.”
The GMB union confirmed that paramedics, emergency care assistants, call handlers and other staff are now set to walk out in the following trusts:
- South West Ambulance Service
- South East Coast Ambulance Service
- NWAS – North West Ambulance Service
- South Central Ambulance Service
- North East Ambulance Service
- East Midlands Ambulance Service
- West Midlands Ambulance Service
- Welsh Ambulance Service
- Yorkshire Ambulance Service
UNISON members in just five trusts will join the coordinated action as in the remaining trusts, the ballot did not reach the required turnout threshold and UNISON will re-ballot in those areas. The five trusts involved in this month’s strike action are: London, Yorkshire, the North West, North East and South West.
General Secretary of the Unite union, Sharon Graham added, “Patients’ lives are already at risk, but this government is sitting on the sidelines, dodging its responsibility to sort out the crisis that it has created. Ministers can’t keep hiding behind the pay review body.”