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Health talks resume to avert strike

Talks aimed at averting a strike by health workers over pay are to resume, just days before the walkout is due to go ahead.

Union leaders will meet with officials from the Health Department following a series of talks last week, with little sign of a breakthrough in the bitter dispute over the Government's refusal to pay a recommended 1% wage rise to all NHS staff.

Ambulance members of the GMB union in England and Northern Ireland are set to strike for 24 hours from 0001 on Thursday, while other health workers will take action for 12 hours from midday.

Members of Unison and Unite are also planning to go on strike on the same day in the long-running dispute over the Government's refusal to accept the NHS pay review body's recommendation.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt chaired a meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee last week to discuss contingency plans for the strike.

Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB union, said: "We are pleased we are still in the talks. We are making every effort to get a tangible offer on the table to take back to our members to avert the strike."

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: "The Ministry of Defence has been asked to provide support to the Department of Health during strike action by ambulance staff in order to maintain essential services. We are currently working to finalise what form this assistance will take."

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