Unite, the country’s largest union, is offering to hold talks over the Easter holiday in a bid to settle the Yorkshire ambulance dispute over patient safety and derecognition of the union.
Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “Unite is prepared to hold talks with the management at any time over the Easter holiday to resolve this dispute in the interests of patients and the general public.”
Unite made the offer today (Wednesday 27 March) before the one-day strike by its 450 paramedics and other ambulance staff members on Tuesday (2 April). Its members at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust have been operating an overtime ban since yesterday (Tuesday 26 March).
Terry Cunliffe said: “We are very conscious that the public in Yorkshire wants to see this dispute settled and we also want a resolution, but not at the expense of patient safety.
“To achieve this means addressing the underlying issues which are the derecognition of Unite and discussing the workforce plan.
“I would be happy to meet the trust’s chief executive David Whiting, the deputy chief executive Stephen Moir and the trust chair Della Cannings, under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas for meaningful and constructive talks over the holiday period.”
The trust’s hardline management has derecognised Unite as a trade union, after it raised concerns about patient safety as a result of the trust proposing to save £46 million over the next five years.
A key proposal by the trust 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 has 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 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.