Unite members in Yorkshire also vote for overtime ban as patient care suffers due to cuts

Tim Lezard

Yorkshire-ambulanceYorkshire ambulance workers have voted to hold a one-day strike on April 2nd in a dispute over patient safety and de-recognition of their union, Unite.

The 450 paramedics have also voted for an overtime ban from March 26th.

Unite said it had twice attempted to discuss the implications of industrial action and also asked for the dispute to be referred to the conciliation service Acas, but the management at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust had rebuffed the union’s efforts to find a solution.

The trust’s hardline management de-recognised Unite as a trade union after it raised concerns about patient safety as a result of the trust proposing to save £46 million over the next five years.

Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “Unite calls for the management to open constructive negotiations in the run-up to 2 April. This is a final window of opportunity for the trust to resolve this situation for the benefit of the Yorkshire public.

“The management has been trying to silence Unite after it raised legitimate concerns over patient safety that could flow from the shake-up of ambulance services in the next five years.

“Now our members have voted for strike action on 2 April and for a continuous overtime ban from 26 March.

“It shows the depth of concern that our members feel about patient safety because of the £46 million of savings that managers want to implement.

“The hardline management has responded by de-recognising Unite and twice rejecting our attempts to take this dispute to Acas and to discuss the implications of industrial action.”

A key proposal by the trust is the introduction of emergency care assistants (ECAs) to work alongside more highly-trained paramedics. The ECA staff have only six weeks training, when a paramedic undergoes a two-year degree course.

This introduction has resulted in managers currently deploying unqualified staff to emergencies with, in some cases, other ECAs or unqualified assistant practitioners.

Unite has said the response to 999 calls is becoming a postcode lottery. The sick and injured may receive attention from a fully-trained paramedic crew, but, on the other hand, they could get a private ambulance containing unqualified staff.

The trust currently has over 300 staff who will be demoted and de-skilled as a result of the plans being introduced and the majority of these staff will have little or no opportunity of further training for at least seven years.

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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