Unite has hailed an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) judgement concerning the working-time arrangement of on-call technicians and paramedics in the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) as a significant victory for workers’ rights and patient safety.
Relief ambulance paramedics Mr Paul Truslove and Ms Ellouise Wood pursued the SAS for compensation over a breach of their rest entitlements under the 1998 Working Time Regulations, having accumulated 97 and 48 consecutive working hours respectively.
Although Mr Truslove and Ms Wood worked normally from a base station in Elgin, which is manned by a 24 hour shift rota, both were required to provide nightly on call cover for the Dufftown and Tomintoul areas where only day shift coverage is provided from local stations.
However the original Employment Tribunal (ET) judged that despite requirements for on-call technicians and paramedics to re-locate to accommodation within three miles of the local station and to respond to emergencies within a target time of three minutes, this would still be defined as a rest period.
The Honourable Mr Justice Langstaff overturned the previous ET decision in April, ruling the previous judgement as an error of law and defining on-call duties as working time.
Unite Regional Industrial Officer Tommy Campbell said, “This is a significant victory for Unite’s long-term campaigning on behalf of our members in the SAS and the defence of their working-time rights.
“The original Employment Tribunal judgement that time spent by technicians and paramedics’ on-call and away from home in order to fulfil geographical and time-bound requirements for the provision of patient care as a rest period was, frankly, ludicrous.
“The ruling to overturn the original judgement and clearly define on-call duty as working time not only protects the right of our ambulance technicians and paramedics to a proper compensatory rest period but also ensures we have the best standards for patient safety too.
“This process once again highlights the need for a fully resourced and fully funded SAS – something the Scottish Government has readily acknowledged in the past – and reinforces our arguments that investment and protection of workers at the coalface of the service should be a priority.
“Ultimately this ruling not only defends the working-time rights of our members in the SAS but sets-out precedence to protect all workers in general by upholding the principles of the Working Time Directive.”
For further information please contact Tommy Campbell on 078101 157920 or Peter Welsh on 07810 157931.
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Notes to editors:
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.