Ambulance workers across England are likely to strike before Christmas, says UNISON today (Tuesday), as it announces the results of its month-long NHS strike ballot.
Thousands of 999 call handlers, ambulance technicians, paramedics and their colleagues working for ambulance services in the North East, North West, London, Yorkshire and the South West are to be called out on strike over pay and staffing levels.
Commenting on the ballot results, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The decision to take action and lose a day’s pay is always a tough call. It’s especially challenging for those whose jobs involve caring and saving lives.
“But thousands of ambulance staff and their NHS colleagues know delays won’t lessen, nor waiting times reduce, until the government acts on wages. That’s why they’ve taken the difficult decision to strike.
“Patients will always come first and emergency cover will be available during any strike. But unless NHS pay and staffing get fixed, services and care will continue to decline.
“The public knows health services won’t improve without huge increases in staffing and wants the government to pay up to save the NHS. It’s high time ministers stopped using the pay review body as cover for their inaction.
“Jeremy Hunt, Rishi Sunak and Steve Barclay must roll up their sleeves and start talking to unions about how better wages for staff can help start to turn the NHS around.”
More than 80,000 health workers across England have voted to go on strike and although the vote was just below the 50% threshold in many trusts, ministers should be in no doubt about the level of anger and frustration from NHS workers. This level of support for action will only grow, says UNISON.
Notes to editors:
– UNISON’s health committee is analysing the results of the ballot and will decide what happens next. This is likely to include setting the first strike date and making decisions about those trusts where the vote fell just short of the required threshold.
– Health workers belonging to UNISON and working in Northern Ireland have already voted to take action over pay and staffing. For a week from Monday 5 December, NHS staff will take action short of a strike, which means working to their contracts, ending their shifts on time and refusing overtime. They’ll then be striking for the day on Monday 12 December. In Scotland UNISON is recommending its NHS members vote to accept the latest offer from Holyrood, which will see a £2,205 increase for the lowest paid staff, and more for those on higher bands. That vote closes on 12 December. In Wales, the threshold necessary for strike action wasn’t met anywhere, and its health committee is to meet to decide on its next steps.
– In July the government in Westminster announced that most NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts (NHS terms and conditions) in England would get a pay rise of £1,400, in line with the recommendation of the NHS pay review body. This amounted to a 4.75% increase to the NHS pay bill. Health workers had been due a wage rise on 1 April. Health workers in Wales got the same award. The health minister in Northern Ireland said he wanted to implement this award but could not do so due to the political stalemate. This means NHS workers there have had no pay rise at all.
– UNISON and most other health unions had called for an above-inflation pay rise in their submission to this year’s NHS pay review body.