Thousands of ambulance workers across England walked out today (Wednesday) after the government failed to take part in any pay talks to prevent disruption to NHS services, says UNISON.
Staff belonging to UNISON at five ambulance services – North West, North East, Yorkshire, London and South West – have been staging a 12-hour walkout from noon over pay and staffing.
UNISON says all health workers will want to escalate strike action in the coming weeks if the government continues to ignore efforts to resolve the dispute.
Ministers have had ample opportunity to avoid industrial action over the inadequate pay given to NHS staff, but have steadfastly refused to take part in any talks, says the union.
Those taking part in the action today include paramedics, emergency care assistants, ambulance technicians and other 999 road crew members, who have been on picket lines in various parts of England.
Throughout the day, ambulance workers have been leaving picket lines to respond to calls where someone’s life is in danger.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The government has let down staff, patients and the public, pure and simple.
“It would be job done if ministers put as much energy into solving this dispute as they have spreading scare stories and demonising skilled ambulance staff.
“Vacancies are at an all-time high in the NHS. The grim reality is that patients are being harmed every day by a woefully understaffed health service.
“Most UK ambulance trusts had declared critical incidents even before the strike took effect. The system can’t cope after years of government neglect.
“Pressures on the service are so great, that every day of every week, very sick people are waiting hours for emergency crews to arrive, and in many cases, the ambulance gets there too late.
“Steve Barclay has waited until the day of the strike to gripe about the supposed lack of contingency arrangements. As the secretary of state knows only full well, agreements have been made locally between unions and employers in each ambulance service.
“A proper pay rise this year won’t solve every problem in the NHS, but it’d help stem the tide of staff leaving. They’re exhausted, feel hugely undervalued and can easily find better paid work elsewhere.
“Staff and unions said from the start a £1,400 pay rise in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis was nowhere near enough. The government’s response has been to do absolutely nothing in the five months since.
“The health secretary could have nipped this dispute in the bud by agreeing to negotiate and budge on wages. If he does, further strikes could be paused.
“If Steve Barclay intends to bring in minimum staffing levels during a strike, he must go the whole hog and ensure this is the case all year round.
“The Prime Minister entered Number 10 saying he believed in strengthening the NHS. Everyone now wants him to prove it, starting with a wage boost to staff right across the NHS.”
Notes to editors:
– Details of UNISON’s picket lines are available here.
– UNISON balloted 20,000 staff including in the 5 ambulance services and 2 NHS trusts who took action today.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.
The article Ministers have power to pause strikes by committing to pay boost, says UNISON first appeared on the UNISON National site.