Thousands of ambulance workers and NHS staff to strike ahead of Christmas

NHS staff ‘have had enough,’ union leader says

Maryam Zakir-Hussain
Tuesday 06 December 2022 12:56 GMT
Comments
Mick Lynch defends further Christmas strikes after Network Rail ‘detrimental offer’

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Thousands of ambulance workers and other NHS staff are to strike on December 21 in a dispute over pay, unions have announced.

The GMB, Unison and Unite unions are co-ordinating industrial action across England and Wales after accusing the government of ignoring pleas for a decent wage rise.

Unison said its strike, involving paramedics, emergency care assistants, ambulance technicians and other 999 crew members, will run from noon to midnight.

The strike will happen a day after members of the Royal College of Nursing stage their second walkout, also over pay.

The GMB said more than 10,000 ambulance workers across nine trusts in England and Wales will strike.

Rachel Harrison, GMB national secretary, said: “After 12 years of Conservative cuts to the service and their pay packets, NHS staff have had enough.

“The last thing they want to do is take strike action but the government has left them with no choice.

“Health secretary Steve Barclay needs to listen and engage with us about pay. If he can’t talk to us about this most basic workforce issue, what on earth is he health secretary for?

“The government could stop this strike in a heartbeat - but they need to wake up and start negotiating on pay.”

“This strike isn’t just about pay - it is to save the NHS. The NHS is crumbling. We can’t recruit and retain staff as pay is so low,” Jason Kirkham, a Unite member and paramedic in the West Midlands, said. “It has got so bad that we have had to open a food bank in my ambulance station.”

Thousands of ambulance workers and NHS staff to strike ahead of Christmas
Thousands of ambulance workers and NHS staff to strike ahead of Christmas (Getty Images)

The GMB members will strike at:

  • South West Ambulance Service
  • South East Coast Ambulance Service
  • North West Ambulance Service
  • South Central Ambulance Service
  • North East Ambulance Service
  • East Midlands Ambulance Service
  • West Midlands Ambulance Service
  • Welsh Ambulance Service
  • Yorkshire Ambulance Service

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Make no mistake, we are now in the fight of our lives for the very NHS itself. These strikes are a stark warning - our members are taking a stand to save our NHS from this government.

“Patients’ lives are already at risk but this government is sitting on the sidelines, dodging its responsibility to sort out the crisis that it has created.

“Ministers can’t keep hiding behind the pay review body. They know full well it does not address the desperate need to get huge numbers of NHS workers off the breadline.

“Fail to act now to avert these strikes and the blame will rest firmly at the government’s door.”

GMB representatives will now meet with individual trusts to discuss requirements for life-and-limb cover.

Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton said: “The government will only have itself to blame if there are strikes in the NHS before Christmas.

“Ambulance staff and their health colleagues don’t want to inconvenience anyone but ministers are refusing to do the one thing that could prevent disruption - that’s start genuine talks about pay.

“Wages are too low to stop health workers quitting the NHS. As more and more hand in their notice, there are fewer staff left to care for patients. The public knows that’s the reason behind lengthy waits at A&E, growing ambulances delays, postponed operations and cancelled clinics.

“Threatened NHS strikes in Scotland were called off because ministers there understand higher wages and improved staffing levels go hand in hand. Unfortunately, the penny’s yet to drop for the Westminster government.”

Throughout the strike, Unite said it will maintain essential emergency cover for patients.

Unite continues to ballot 10,000 more NHS workers at 38 different employers across England and Wales, with the results expected later this month.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in