Yorkshire ambulance workers have voted to hold a one-day strike on Tuesday 2 April in the dispute over patient safety and derecognition of Unite, the country’s largest union.
Unite said today (Monday 18 March) that its 450 paramedics and other ambulance staff members had also voted overwhelmingly to institute a continuous overtime ban from 26 March.
Unite said that it had twice attempted to discuss the implications of industrial action and also asked for the dispute to be referred to the conciliation service Acas – but the management at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust had rebuffed the union’s efforts to find a solution.
Members have voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action in the form of an overtime ban due to start at 06.00 on 26 March and will be continuous. A 24-hour strike is due to be held on 2 April. Further strike action could follow after 2 April.
The trust’s hardline management had 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.
The ballot figures: 61.8 per cent voted in favour of strike action, with 38.2 voting against. A total of 83 per cent voted in favour of industrial action, short of a strike, and 17 per cent against.
Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “Unite calls for the management to open constructive negotiations in the run-up to 2 April. This is a final window of opportunity for the trust to resolve this situation for the benefit of the Yorkshire public.
“The management has been 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.
“Now our members have voted for strike action on 2 April and for a continuous overtime ban from 26 March.
“It shows the depth of concern that our members feel about patient safety because of the £46 million of savings that managers want to implement.
“The hardline management has responded by derecognising Unite and twice rejecting our attempts to take this dispute to Acas and to discuss the implications of industrial action.”
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.