Paramedics are just some of the NHS staff currently striking since December 2022 after a lack of pay rise during the current inflation crisis. The strikes are said to be the biggest in over 30 years with numbers ranging between 2,000-25,000 over the strike dates.
I interviewed Marcus Davies, the Staff Side Representative for Southeast London for UNISON- the UK’s largest public services union, to get a closer insight into the reasons for the strikes. I began by asking what made him personally want to join in. “It’s about pay for me really. So I can provide for my family, so I can pay my bills." He said, “What I’m currently getting paid with the cost of living and inflation, my pay wouldn’t cover my bills at the end of the month.”
I then asked Marcus why he saw it important for paramedics in general to strike, to which he replied “As a union, we do it collectively. We support each other. When you’ve got that many people your voice is heard better, especially with the government. They have to take notice.” He then continued to make a very perceptive point about the future of the NHS and careers in the service, “If we (the ambulance service) lose 100 experienced people and try to employ 100 new people. First of all, those 100 new people are inexperienced, and secondly, they’re not gonna get the knowledge or experience from people who would mentor them.” He finished this point by stating “We want to attract young people from school or university, but the pay has to be attractive for them.”
The final thing I asked Marcus was his thoughts on the complaints about the ambulance service strikes allegedly risking the lives of those in need, to which he was able to give a clear and well-informed response. He completely disagreed with the statement and stated, “So I think it’s totally different because of the arrangements we put in place when we go on strike.” He then went on to explain the provision of ‘life and limb cover’ for all serious cases (heart attacks, strokes, etc). “All the picket lines will be full of ambulance crew that are waiting to go to these patients, so if there’s anything serious, we know we’ve got enough paramedics and ambulances to respond quickly to those types of jobs.” He even went on to state how with the currently understaffed service, its on normal days, when there are other, less severe calls that people suffer. “It’s when we go to these calls (not life or limb) and there’s no ambulances available, is when we put lives at risk for the people.”
The country’s ‘covid superheroes’ are now seemingly just some of the affected and neglected by the cost-of-living crisis. Will the strikes bring about a change for those in need?