More than 15,000 ambulance workers across 11 different trusts in England and Wales have started voting on a potential strike action in a dispute over pay. The GMB union said workers were angry at a pay award of 4% which it has described as a ‘massive real terms pay cut.’ If strikes go ahead, this would be the largest ambulance strike for 30 years.
Why are the GMB union striking?
GMB acting national secretary Rachel Harrison said:
“Ambulance workers don’t do this lightly. After more than 10 years of pay cuts, plus the cost-of-living crisis, workers can’t make ends meet. They are desperate. Without significant increases in pay, NHS workers and ambulance workers will continue to leave the service for higher paid jobs elsewhere. This is more than just about pay, this is about patient safety and standards as well.”
What is the Government doing?
The Department of Health and Social Care (“DHSC”) said it had set out a range of measures to help ease ambulance pressures, including an extra £500m to speed up discharge and free up hospital beds, reducing waits in A&E. This was, alongside NHS plans to boost capacity and resilience ahead of winter, including increasing the number of NHS 999 and 111 call handlers. The government maintains it values the “hard work” of the NHS staff, demonstrated by more than one million workers having a pay rise of at least £1400 this year. A Government spokesperson said:
“Industrial action is a matter for unions, and we urge them to carefully consider the potential impacts on patients.”
The DHSC said NHS England would work with providers, professional bodies and trade unions to agree the safe level of cover during any industrial action. Emergency ambulance callouts would not be affected by any action.