Paramedics and ambulance staff have hit the picket line

Today, over 10,000 ambulance workers in England and Wales have ditched their sirens to strike in a major dispute over pay.

The strike involves members of Unison, Unite and GMB unions who are demanding above-inflation pay rises, but the government are refusing to budge. The services have previously been offered a 4% pay increase, however this was firmly declined.

Until staff are presented with a sufficient deal, ambulance workers will be walking away from their services for anywhere between 12 and 24 hours today and on 28th December. 

Whilst away from work, ambulances and NHS leaders have said that they will be responding to life-threatening calls, but for everything else, the NHS has advised people to use the 111 service. As a result of this, an estimated 750-armed forces staff are being drafted in to help in England, and some will drive patients with less urgent conditions to and from hospital.

However, despite workers taking part in strike action, Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, informed the BBC that he will not be giving in to their demands and that the three unions have ‘refused’ to work with the government at a national level.

Mr Barclay said trade unions ‘haven’t been willing to work with [the government] to agree national exemptions in terms of covering all of the category one, category two, life threatening and emergency calls.’

In response to this, Rachel Harrison, National Secretary of the GMB union, said to the BBC: ‘It’s actually quite insulting to our members and our NHS workers who get up, go to work every day and put patient safety first. They’re the ones feeling physically prevented on a day-to-day basis from being able to do their jobs.’

Ms Harrison added that the government has ‘failed’ to make a pay offer to workers so far, and that the unions’ doors are only open to discussing significant pay increases.

Some ambulance staff were part of a strike in 2014, but Britain’s last nationwide strike involving paramedics took place in late 1989 and early 1990.

Photo by Krzysztof Hepner


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