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GMB to ballot ambulance staff on possible industrial action

Union claims health secretary has broken promises to improve pay and conditions

Caroline White

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

GMB, the union for ambulance staff, is set to ballot its members working in the ambulance service on what action they would be prepared to take in light of what it claims are broken promises from the government to improve pay and conditions.

The union says it wants fair pay, a safe and sensible retirement age, proper training and improved development and career progression for ambulance drivers.

The consultative ballot will run from this Friday April 29 until Wednesday May 25.

Rehana Azam, GMB national officer for the NHS, said: “An overworked, underpaid and overstretched ambulance workforce cannot be expected to keep responding to 999 emergency calls, whilst their government sits back and does nothing.

“The government promised to recognise the valuable skill set of ambulance staff. They promised to invest in the ambulance staff and service. The government has failed to live up to [its] promises.”

The GMB says that unions have been left with no alternative but to announce a consultative ballot of ambulance staff in England with the potential for industrial action ballot in the near future.

Back in 2015, in a bid to conclude the pay dispute of 2014-15, health secretary Jeremy Hunt, agreed to review the banding system to recognise the skills of ambulance staff.

But this has not been followed through, says the GMB, and ambulance service workers are increasingly losing their patience with the government.

With demand on the NHS at an all time high, it’s the ambulance staff that have endured the worst conditions in responding to life threatening 999 emergencies, says the union.

They often have to administer care for longer, because they are unable to hand over patients in A&E due to the lack of capacity.

Vacancy levels in the service top 1,200, and a shrinking ambulance workforce is struggling to respond to the increasing demands placed on it, as a result of which staff morale has reached rock bottom, it says.

The union is calling on the government to prioritise the delivery of the promises it says were made in 2015 and to set out a detailed plan for how these will be delivered.

Steve Rice, GMB Chair of the Ambulance Committee, said: "Ambulance staff are heartily sick and tired of being pushed around and say 'enough is enough'. In 2015, we settled the pay dispute with Jeremy Hunt in good faith…Nearly a year on, we feel badly let down with an undelivered promise and a continued demand on the 999 emergency service.”

He continued: “The GMB Ambulance Committee urges Jeremy Hunt to get round the table, otherwise a second dispute in the NHS in addition to the junior doctors’ will be of his making, and unavoidable."

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