Thousands of ambulance workers to strike later this month in dispute over pay

·4-min read
Ambulance staff will walk out on December 21  (PA Archive)
Ambulance staff will walk out on December 21 (PA Archive)

Thousands of ambulance workers and other NHS staff are to strike in the days before Christmas in a dispute over pay, the GMB, Unison and Unite unions have announced.

They will walk out on December 21, unions confirmed on Tuesday.

GMB, Unison and Unite are co-ordinating industrial action across England and Wales after accusing the Government of ignoring pleas for a decent wage rise.

The GMB said more than 10,000 ambulance workers across nine trusts in England and Wales will strike.

The strike will happen a day after members of the Royal College of Nursing stage their second walkout, also over pay.

Paramedics, emergency care assistants, call handlers and other staff will also walk out on December 28 as a series of strikes hit public services and transport.

The GMB members will strike at the:

– South West Ambulance Service;

– South East Coast Ambulance Service;

– North West Ambulance Service;

– South Central Ambulance Service;

– North East Ambulance Service;

– East Midlands Ambulance Service;

– West Midlands Ambulance Service;

– Welsh Ambulance Service; and

– Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

GMB representatives will now meet with individual trusts to discuss requirements for life-and-limb cover.

Rachel Harrison, GMB national secretary, said: “After 12 years of Conservative cuts to the service and their pay packets, NHS staff have had enough.

“The last thing they want to do is take strike action but the Government has left them with no choice.

“Health Secretary Steve Barclay needs to listen and engage with us about pay. If he can’t talk to us about this most basic workforce issue, what on Earth is he Health Secretary for?

“The Government could stop this strike in a heartbeat – but they need to wake up and start negotiating on pay.”

Unite said more than 1,600 of its members at the West Midlands, North West and North East ambulance service trusts will join the walkout.

It said the action is a “stark warning” to the Government that it must stem the “crisis” engulfing the NHS.

Unite insisted that throughout the strike it would maintain “essential emergency cover” for patients.

But many people, including some who are severely unwell, are already having to wait significantly longer than they should have under NHS targets.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham argued: “Make no mistake, we are now in the fight of our lives for the very NHS itself. These strikes are a stark warning – our members are taking a stand to save our NHS from this government.

“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.”

Jason Kirkham, a Unite member and paramedic in the West Midlands, added: “This strike isn’t just about pay – it is to save the NHS. The NHS is crumbling. We can’t recruit and retain staff as pay is so low.

“It has got so bad that we have had to open a food bank in my ambulance station.”

Unite continues to ballot 10,000 more NHS workers at 38 different employers across England and Wales, with the results expected later this month.

Ambulance crews in Unison working for five services in England – London, Yorkshire, the North West, North East and South West – will also strike.

Unison said its strike, involving paramedics, emergency care assistants, ambulance technicians and other 999 crew members, will run from noon to midnight on December 21.

The ambulance workers are to be joined by Unison nurses, porters, healthcare assistants, cleaners and other NHS workers at two Liverpool hospitals, who will also take action that day.

Unison is also about to begin reballoting around 13,000 NHS staff working for 10 trusts and ambulance services where turnout in the recent strike vote fell just short of the threshold required by law.

Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton said: “The Government will only have itself to blame if there are strikes in the NHS before Christmas.

“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.

“Wages are too low to stop health workers quitting the NHS. As more and more hand in their notice, there are fewer staff left to care for patients. The public knows that’s the reason behind lengthy waits at A&E, growing ambulances delays, postponed operations and cancelled clinics.”