Yorkshire ambulance staff to strike for two days in continuing patient safety dispute

27 August 2014

From Unite: Unite the unionYorkshire ambulance service workers, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, will strike on Friday and next Tuesday (2 September) in the 20 month dispute over patient and staff safety issues.

Unite said that the management at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust had repeatedly snubbed the union’s attempts during the summer to hold constructive talks under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas.

The nearly 400 Unite Yorkshire ambulance members will strike from 15:00 to 21:00 hours on Friday (29 August). The staff will strike again from 15:00, ending at 21:00, on Tuesday (2 September).

Unite said that it had received ‘a very strong mandate’ from its members to continue the fight on behalf of the Yorkshire public to ensure patient care was paramount and that the already over-stretched ambulance staff did not become exhausted in carrying out their vital duties.

Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said today (Tuesday 26 August): “The trust’s chief executive David Whiting continues to play hard ball with his employees and has snubbed every genuine attempt by Unite to engage in positive talks for the benefit of the Yorkshire public.

“Our members firmly believe that the public deserve a first-class, fully resourced ambulance service – and, as they have shown on a number of occasions since April 2013, they have been prepared to strike to strongly make that case.

“We have been buoyed up by the support we have received from Yorkshire people – and we thank them for that.  Unite’s door is open for talks under the auspices of Acas at any time.”

Earlier this summer the management unilaterally imposed new detrimental working conditions which meant that emergency care assistants  (ECAs), who have only six weeks training, taking on more responsibilities, such as being the first to respond to a ‘red’ (emergency) call.

Paramedics will have completed a two-year degree course and Unite has repeatedly called for ECAs to receive more training to deal with the more complex tasks they are now being asked to carry out.

The new meal break system means that those on a shift up to 12 hours will be  allowed a 45 minute break to be taken sometime between the fourth and seventh hour of the shift, although David Whiting has decreed that when the service is busy Unite members can be refused any breaks – even on a 12 hour shift.

The crux of the dispute is the introduction of elongated shift patterns. The union has said that it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed as a result of staff exhaustion.

Unite’s Yorkshire ambulance members have held a series of strikes in this dispute since April 2013, the last being on 5 and 6 July this year. The dispute started when the bosses withdrew recognition from Unite as a union representing staff, after the union raised concerns about patient safety at the start of 2013.

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