Workers at two ambulance trusts in the south of England will go on strike, as union leader Sharon Graham vows to “exert greater pressure” on the government to reopen pay and conditions negotiations.
On Tuesday, employees at two ambulance trusts will go on strike as the Unite union begins its “escalation” of industrial action to force ministers back to the negotiating table over pay and conditions in the NHS.
Last month, members of the union rejected the government’s offer of a 5% rise and one-time payment, despite the support of other NHS unions.
Even though the arrangement has now been approved by the NHS staff council, Unite leader Sharon Graham stated that she was determined to obtain a “proper” enhanced offer.
Tomorrow, from 12 pm to 10 pm, employees of South Central Ambulance Service NHS Trust and South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust will engage in walkouts.
The Department of Health stated that people should continue to call 999 in life-threatening emergencies and utilize NHS 111 online services for non-urgent health requirements unless instructed otherwise by the NHS.
Unite warned that there would be additional strikes in the future, as the union is “in the process of conducting a series of industrial action ballots to increase the number of workers eligible for industrial action.”
Ms. Graham stated, “The strike action by ambulance workers in the South East is part of Unite’s escalation strategy to exert greater pressure on the government.”
“We have always maintained that a non-consolidated bulk sum for fiscal years 22/23 would not suffice. Thus it has transpired. The current offer does nothing to alleviate the NHS’s recruitment and retention crisis.
“The government must reopen negotiations to ensure that NHS employees receive a fair wage offer.”
Several unions, including Unison, GMB, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, and the Royal College of Midwives, supported the offer and helped it pass the NHS staff council vote last week.
However, despite the Royal College of Nursing recommending the agreement to its members, they voted against it. As a result, the union is planning further industrial action, which according to the union’s leader Pat Cuthbert, could last until Christmas.
The government has stated that the proposed offer is “fair and reasonable.”
In response to the latest action, a spokesperson for the Department of Health stated, “It is disappointing that some Unite members are continuing strike action this week – these strikes will place additional strain on the NHS and disrupt patient care.”
“The majority of unions on the NHS staff council voted to accept our pay offer, and we hope that the unions that chose to remain in dispute, even though a majority of their members also voted to accept this offer, will recognize this as a fair outcome that enjoys the support of their colleagues and decide to end the industrial action.”