Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

TUC backs ambulance drivers' action

An emergency motion to the TUC Congress in Bournemouth seeking backing for drivers and other ambulance staff has passed

Union activists have supported ambulance workers across England who are threatening to take industrial action in a row over cuts to sick pay.

An emergency motion to the TUC conference in Bournemouth calling for backing for drivers and other ambulance staff won approval. Members of the GMB, Unite and Unison have rejected plans to reduce their sick pay, warning they could be forced to work while ill.

Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB, said: "Despite months of negotiations the final proposals from the NHS employers simply weren't good enough and our members rejected them by over 90%. Ambulance workers have had to put up with pay restraint and increasing workload and feel they are the pinch point in the NHS squeeze.

"They won't put up with a draconian cut to their sick pay which could see them being forced to work while ill to avoid losing money. Who wants an ambulance turning up at an emergency with the medics coughing and sneezing all over the place? It's stupid.

"Nearly all members also said they would be prepared to take industrial action to defend their sick pay and so we have registered formal industrial disputes with the NHS Employers and every ambulance trust.

"We will also be challenging the legality of this imposition which we believe is wrong. Our members are very angry and although none of them want to put the public at risk, they have been forced into a corner and the threat of industrial action looks inevitable if the employers don't back down."

Christina McAnea, Unison's head of health, said: "Ambulance staff do a difficult, stressful, often dangerous job and face a daily risk of injury, illness and violence at work. It is wrong for the employers to forge ahead with these proposals. We hear day after day about the pressure that paramedics and ambulance workers face coupled with the rising number of 999 calls year on year.

"Ambulance workers do not take industrial action lightly - they know that lives depend on their care and expertise. Feelings are running high and it is time the employers recognised that the ambulance service is too vital to play games with. We are calling on the employers to continue negotiations and find a way to resolve this."

Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said: "It is very disappointing that unions representing ambulance staff have gone back on an agreement on sick pay reached by the NHS Staff Council in February.

"This is not the way to work in partnership. It is only fair that the same approach to sick pay is used for all staff covered by the national agreement, including those in the ambulance service."

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