Yorkshire ambulance service workers, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, are being balloted for strike action in the long-running dispute over patient and staff safety issues.
The new ballot is being held to renew the mandate for strike action following the continual refusal of the management of Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust to negotiate on these issues.
Today (Friday 13 June) sees the management unilaterally impose new detrimental working conditions which will mean that emergency care assistants (ECAs), who have only six weeks training, taking on more responsibilities, such as being the first to respond to a ‘red’ (emergency) call.
Paramedics will have completed a two-year degree course and Unite has repeatedly called for ECAs to receive more training to deal with the more complex tasks they are now being asked to carry out.
The new meal break system means that those on a shift up to 12 hours will be allowed a 45 minute break to be taken sometime between the fourth and seventh hour of the shift.
The ballot of the 378 Unite members will close on Wednesday 25 June.
The crux of the dispute, which is now 18 months old, is the introduction of elongated shift patterns. The union has said that it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed as a result of staff exhaustion.
Unite has called for an independent inquiry by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), so the Yorkshire public can judge for itself the impact on patient safety of £46 million of cuts over five years that the trust is implementing.
Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “We are balloting again for industrial action at the trust to secure the right for Unite to be recognised as a legitimate trade union in order to protect patient and staff safety.
“The chief executive David Whiting has imposed the new draconian conditions without any consultation or agreement with the unions.
“This high-handed action is another example for the reason why Unite has continued with our dispute for the last 18 months.
“We will not be intimidated by his threats. He has lost the confidence of the unions and the public.
“This latest dangerous move in relation to staff on the A&E rotas is unacceptable and will, in my opinion, cost lives.”
Unite’s Yorkshire ambulance members have held a series of strikes in this dispute since April 2013. The dispute started when the bosses withdrew recognition from Unite as a union representing staff, after the union raised concerns about patient safety at the start of last year.
For further information please contact:
Terry Cunliffe, Unite regional officer: on 07776 202007;
Barrie Brown, Unite national officer for health on 07798 531002
Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940.
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.