Unite union ambulance strikes planned for this week called off

Planned walkouts by Unite union ambulance workers this week have been cancelled with a day to spare.

Members at trusts in the West Midlands, North West, South Central, South Coastal, and East Midlands were to go on strike on Monday - with more planned for Wednesday in Yorkshire.

But following "further assurances from the government over the weekend", the union says they will not happen.

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"Unite has in good faith agreed to pause the strike action," said Gail Cartmail, the union's head of operations.

"If the meeting doesn't meet these assurances, strike action will resume."

Those assurances, the union said, include that any pay deal will include new money - rather than placing additional pressure on existing NHS budgets.

Pay talks expected this week

They were the last ambulance workers' strikes still planned for this week, with the GMB and Unison unions having already suspended their own action.

Those were called off after ministers at the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said cash was available for potential pay rises this year and next.

A DHSC spokesperson said: "We're pleased that unions representing the majority of ambulance workers, nurses, physiotherapists, porters, cleaners, and other nonmedical staff have agreed to pause strikes and enter a process of intensive talks.

"We want to find a fair and reasonable settlement that recognises the vital role of NHS workers, the wider economic pressures facing the UK and the prime minister's priority to halve inflation."

Significant disruption had been expected, as the strikes would have involved tens of thousands of key workers.

Had the Unite strikes taken place, it would have been the first time that members in South Central and South Coastal had taken industrial action.

Talks between unions and ministers, expected to cover pay, terms and conditions, are expected early this week.

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Moment of relief amid winter of strikes

It comes after planned strikes by ambulance workers with Unite in Wales were also called off.

Those were due for Monday too, but were put on hold to continue pay talks with the Welsh government.

The suspension of this week's walkouts will come as a relief to the NHS and also ministers, who have been at loggerheads with unions over pay and conditions for workers across multiple industries during the winter.

Teachers, train drivers, civil servants, bus drivers, security guards and university lecturers are among those who have taken part in industrial action.

Last month saw the UK's biggest day of strikes in more than a decade, after 2022 ended with NHS nurses staging their largest action ever.