Yorkshire ambulance staff vote to strike in patient safety dispute

Date:14th January 2010.'Ambulances at Leeds General Infirmary Jubilee Wing.
Date:14th January 2010.'Ambulances at Leeds General Infirmary Jubilee Wing.

Yorkshire ambulance service workers, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, have voted overwhelmingly for strike action on July 5-6 in the long-running dispute over patient and staff safety issues.

Unite said today (Friday June 27) that it had received ‘a very strong mandate’ 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 members working at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust voted by 84 per cent to strike between 6am and 11.59pm on Saturday July 5 and on Sunday July 6, starting at 6pm and concluding at 10pm.

Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “Once again, our members have spoken with a clear voice that concern for patient and staff safety remains absolutely paramount.

“This is a very strong mandate and we urge the trust’s chief executive David Whiting, who recently imposed new draconian conditions without any agreement with the unions, to sit down for urgent and constructive talks.

“Unite’s door is open for talks under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas at any time.”

Earlier this month 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, which is now 18 months old, 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.

The nearly 400 Unite Yorkshire ambulance members have held a series of strikes in this dispute since April 2013. 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 last year.