UK medics vote for one-day strike
Almost two out of three of those balloted voted for the walk-out, planned for Tuesday, April 2
By Martin Shaw
The Huddersfield Daily Examiner
YORKSHIRE, England — Ambulance workers across Yorkshire have voted for strike action.
Almost two out of three of those balloted voted for the walk-out, planned for Tuesday, April 2. The strike ballot was called by Unite, the country's largest trade union, in protest at 'de-recognition' by management at Yorkshire Ambulance Service.
Unite balloted its 450 paramedic and ambulance staff and 61.8% were in favour of strike action with 38.2% against. Eighty-three per cent voted in favour of industrial action short of a strike with 17% against.
As a result the union will also impose a continuous overtime ban from next Tuesday, March 26. The ballot was launched after YAS announced it no longer recognised Unite for negotiations on behalf of its members.
The row erupted over cost-cutting measures which the union claimed would put patient safety at risk. As part of a bid to save £46m over five years, YAS ambulance staff would be downgraded with "semi-skilled care assistants" - with just six weeks' training - sent to 999 calls alongside paramedics.
Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said members had been forced into the vote by "hardline" management. Golcar-based Mr Cunliffe told the Examiner: "We wrote to the chief executive David Whiting to meet with conciliation service Acas and talk about a resolution. He threw that back in our faces and refused to meet with us under any circumstances. He said he was prepared for any industrial dispute and would manage it. Faced with that kind of attitude what are our members to do?" Unite's members make up about a quarter of frontline ambulance staff and Mr Cunliffe said the trust would struggle to provide a full service to the public during the strike. Overtime by staff ensured response times were met.
Mr Cunliffe said he believed the last national ambulance strike was in 1989, but industrial action over union de-recognition was virtually unprecedented. He said the trust had attempted to "silence staff from speaking out about public safety" but insisted there was still time to find a compromise. The ballot result showed the "depth of concern" of emergency crews.
Stephen Moir, deputy chief executive at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: "We would like to reassure members of the public that the changes we are introducing to our A&E workforce will enable us to continue to deliver a high quality and responsive service to patients and they will always remain our top priority. We would also provide assurance that the trust has plans in place to avoid any disruption to patient care if Unite members decide to go ahead with the industrial action they have outlined."
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