Yorkshire ambulance workers could strike in the dispute over patient safety and derecognition of Unite, the country’s largest union.
The dispute centres on managers at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust trying to silence Unite from raising patient safety concerns by derecognising the union.
Unite announced today (Monday, 11 February) that it was beginning the legal process to ballot its 450 paramedics and other ambulance staff members at the trust for strike action or industrial action short of a strike. The ballot result could be known by the end of the month.
Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “I can confirm that Unite has begun the legal process to hold an industrial action ballot over the trust’s unilateral decision to derecognise Unite.
“The management is trying to silence Unite after it raised legitimate concerns over patient safety that could flow from the shake-up of ambulance services in the next five years.
“The trust’s behaviour is mind-boggling given last week’s Francis report which placed great emphasis on whistleblowing and ‘a duty of candour’.
“Whatever the outcome of the ballot, our members will always put patient safety first.”
A key proposal by the trust - in a bid to save £46 million over the next five years - is the introduction of emergency care assistants (ECAs) to work alongside more highly-trained paramedics. The ECA staff have only six weeks training, when a paramedic undergoes a two-year degree course.
This introduction has resulted in managers currently deploying unqualified staff to emergencies with, in some cases, other ECAs or unqualified assistant practitioners.
Unite said the response to 999 calls is becoming a postcode lottery. The sick and injured may receive attention from a fully-trained paramedic crew, but, on the other hand, they could get a private ambulance containing unqualified staff.
The trust currently has over 300 staff who will be demoted and de-skilled as a result of the plans being introduced and the majority of these staff will have little or no opportunity of further training for at least seven years.
For further information please contact Terry Cunliffe on 07776 202007; Rachael Maskell, Unite head of health on 07768 693933; Debbie Wilkinson, Unite senior rep at the trust on 07815 145054 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940.
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.