Grant Shapps has been condemned after he accused striking ambulance workers of “putting lives at risk”.
The business secretary hit out as he unveiled the government’s new anti-strike legislation, which could see NHS staff sacked for taking part in industrial action.
His comments came ahead of the latest walkout by ambulance crews tomorrow.
Speaking in the Commons, Shapps said attheir previous strike last month, unions had failed to agree “minimum safety levels” with employers to ensure emergency calls could be answered.
He said: “Health officials were left guessing at the likely minimum coverage, making contingency planning almost impossible and putting everyone’s constituents’ lives at risk.”
Ambulance workers are represented by a combination of the GMB, Unite and Unison trade unions.
A GMB spokesperson said: “This is an extraordinary attack on ambulance workers by Mr Shapps.
“He surely knows that across NHS trusts, GMB members who care for the public every single day, work closely with employers to provide appropriate cover on strike days and have left picket lines to help out on urgent calls.
“The public know who is to blame for the crisis in our NHS – this government. And, people will be disgusted that in a matter of months, they have gone from clapping health workers to legislating to sack them.”
The new law is aimed at ensuring a minimum level of service in crucial sectors during industrial action.
Shapps said the government want to end “forever strikes” and argued that the government’s legislation would bring the UK “into line” with other European countries.
The move has sparked threats of legal challenges, while Labour has said it would repeal the legislation if it wins the next election.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “The public is being put at risk every day due to the government’s NHS crisis and staffing shortages. He is right that it is his government’s duty to protect the public’s access to essential services, but livelihoods and lives are already being lost.
“We all want minimum standards of safety, service and staffing. It is the ministers failing to provide it.”