Unite takes ‘Russian roulette’ ambulance service dispu...

Unite takes ‘Russian roulette’ ambulance service dispute to Yorkshire public

30 July 2013

Unite, the largest union in the country, will be taking the case for a first-class ambulance service in Yorkshire to the public, after accusing the bosses of ‘playing Russian roulette’ with patient safety.

Unite will be embarking on ‘a mission to explain’ to the public in its dispute with the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, after talks under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas broke down.

Unite accused the trust’s hardline management of failing to negotiate in good faith and ‘playing Russian roulette’ with patient safety.

Unite, which has 500 members at the trust, will be widening its campaign with a series of public meetings in major cities and towns in the coming weeks. The exact itinerary is still being hammered out.

Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “After three meetings under the auspices of Acas, it became clear that the management had no intention of negotiating in good faith, so we are going to hold a series of road shows to explain to the Yorkshire public what is at stake here.

“We believe that the trust, in its bid to slash its budget by £46 million in the next five years, is playing Russian roulette with patient safety – and that’s not acceptable.

“Unite’s door is open for meaningful talks – but stepped up industrial action remains firmly on the cards.”

The dispute centres on the budget cuts - even though Unite has said the ambulance workloads were increasing month-by-month by as much as six per cent.

Unite said the cuts have meant the removal of skilled technician staff. They are being replaced by emergency care assistant roles (ECAs) who are being given only six weeks training - only half of which is in clinical skills. Paramedics undergo a two-year degree course.

Unite is also concerned at the continued and increasing use of private ambulance firms to 'plug the gaps' in NHS 999 responses.

Since Unite raised concerns about patient safety earlier this year, it has been derecognised as a trade union by the management. Ambulance staff have already staged two strikes about the cuts – on 2 April and 7 June.

Unite is calling for more training for the ECAs, so they have the proper skill set to tackle the more demanding tasks now being asked of them.


For further information please contact: Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe on 07776 202007 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940

  • 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.