Ambulance staff set to take strike action

Members of UNITE (trade union) protesting.
Members of UNITE (trade union) protesting.

Unite members working for the Yorkshire Ambulance Service are set to take strike action again next month in the dispute over patient safety.

In a move that could affect Bridlington and the whole of Yorkshire, the union say that the continuing refusal of management at Yorkshire Ambulance Service to discuss patient safety – which led to the de-recognition of the union – had left its members with no option but to take further industrial action.

Unite’s 500 members will stage a 12-hour stoppage on Friday June 7 from 12pm to midnight, following a successful one-day strike on April 2.

If the dispute continues there will be a 24-hour stoppage on Saturday June 22 from midnight to midnight. A continuous overtime ban is also in effect from Unite members. The dispute centres on the trust’s plans to cut their budget by £46 million over the next five years - even though Unite said the ambulance workloads were increasing month-by-month by as much as 6%.

Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “The public need to be made aware of the risks that this plan presents which includes the downgrading of the current skill level on NHS frontline vehicles. This means 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.

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

“Since the union’s de-recognition, the trust’s hardline executives have made no attempt to meet with Unite to resolve any issues or address members’ concerns, despite our repeated calls for talks under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas. Once more, Unite calls for the management to do the mature thing and get around the table and negotiate positively.

“No emergency worker ever wants to go on strike. But if the trust is refusing to meet to discuss members’ concerns - they are left with little choice. As clinicians, they feel very strongly about what they see as the downgrading of the frontline response to emergency calls and the serious affect this will have on patient care in Yorkshire.”

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