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Ambulance crews poised to take industrial action over cuts to sick pay

Unions say cuts of up to 25% have been imposed without agreement

Caroline White

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Ambulance crews are prepared to take industrial action over cuts to their sick pay of up to 25%, and have received the full backing of the TUC after an emergency motion was tabled at the TUC’s annual congress in Bournemouth today.

The GMB and other ambulance service unions are in dispute with the ambulance service in England over plans to impose the cuts without the agreement of unions or individual employees.

After lengthy negotiations, which failed to reach an agreement, the NHS told unions on 29 August that it was imposing changes to ambulance workers’ unsocial hours allowance sickness entitlement from 1 September. The cuts mean that some workers could lose up to 25% of their pay when sick, the unions claim.

Nearly all GMB ambulance crew members have said they would be prepared to take industrial action to defend their sick pay, prompting the union to register formal industrial disputes with the NHS Employers organisation and every ambulance trust.

Rehana Azam, GMB National Officer, 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%.”

She added: “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.”

She continued: “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.”

An emergency motion seconded by UNISON, the largest union for ambulance staff, called for support for the campaign to get the employers back round the negotiating table and resolve the dispute, before it leads to industrial action.

Christina McAnea, UNISON 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.

“Ambulance workers do not take industrial action lightly they know that lives depend on their care and expertise. But feelings are running high and it is high time that 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.”

Around 20,000 UNISON members in the ambulance service could be affected by the proposals, and 94% of those consulted voted against acceptance.

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