Unite starts ‘escalation’ of strike action with new walkout by ambulance workers

Politics

Workers at two ambulance trusts will go on strike on Tuesday as the Unite union starts its “escalation” of industrial action to get ministers back to the negotiating table over pay and conditions in the NHS.

Members of the union rejected the government’s offer of a 5% rise and one-off payment last month, despite other NHS unions supporting the deal.

And while the arrangement has now been signed off by the NHS staff council, Unite boss Sharon Graham said she was determined to get a “proper” improved offer.

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Staff from South Central Ambulance Service NHS Trust and South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust will stage walkouts from 12pm until 10pm tomorrow.

The Department of Health said people should attend appointments unless told otherwise by the NHS, continue to call 999 in a life-threatening emergency and use NHS 111 online services for non-urgent health needs.

Unite warned there were more strikes to come too, as the union is “in the process of undertaking a series of industrial action ballots to expand the number of workers able to take industrial action”.

Ms Graham said: “The strike action by our South East ambulance workers is part of Unite’s escalation strategy to exert greater pressure on the government.

“We have always said that a non-consolidated lump sum for 22/23 would not cut it. So it has turned out. The current offer does nothing to resolve the recruitment and retention crisis crippling the NHS.

“The government must re-open negotiations to ensure that a proper wage offer is made to NHS workers.”

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Unite’s national leader Onay Kasab said the union had “absolutely no choice” but to strike again.

Unison, GMB, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and the Royal College of Midwives were among the unions who supported the offer and ensured it passed the NHS staff council vote last week.

But while the Royal College of Nursing recommended the deal to its members, they voted against it, meaning the union is also looking to take further industrial action – with their chief, Pat Cullen, saying it could last until Christmas.

The government has said the offer on the table is “fair and reasonable”.

Responding to the latest action, a Department of Health spokesperson said: “It is disappointing some Unite members are continuing strike action this week – these strikes will put more pressure on the NHS and will be disruptive for patients.

“Most unions on the NHS staff council voted to accept our pay offer and we hope the unions who choose to remain in dispute – despite many of their members also voting to accept this offer – will recognise this as a fair outcome that carries the support of their colleagues and decide it is time to bring industrial action to an end.”

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