Ambulance workers could coordinate strike with others National Health Service workers to send a clear message to the government to invest in the health service, the UK’s biggest union, Unison, has said.
Some 20,000 health workers in England, including non-medical NHS staff, will take part in the first wave of strikes before Christmas. They could be joined by more occupational groups, as many are expected to return ballot papers in the coming days.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced strikes for December 15 and 20 in its wage dispute with the government. He was asked if the ambulance workers would coordinate industrial action with nursesSara Gorton, Unison’s director of health, said: “We have a good relationship with all the NHS unions. We will talk about coordinating action with everyone who gets industrial action mandates.
“We expect other groups of healthcare workers to return their ballot results in the coming days or weeks, so this could see different occupational groups coming together over the course of the winter.
“The government must stop pretending that it has committed to this issue. Seven million of us are waiting for NHS treatment and it’s going to grow.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the wage demands were “not affordable” and the strikes were “not in anyone’s interest as we head into a challenging winter.”
“Our economic circumstances mean the unions’ demands are not affordable, each additional 1% pay increase for all staff in the Agenda for Change contract would cost around £700m a year.
“We have prioritized the NHS with record funding and have accepted the recommendations of the independent wage review body in full to give more than 1 million NHS workers a pay increase of at least £1,400 this year, and those with the lowest wages will receive an increase of up to 9.3% This is on top of 3% last year when public sector wages were frozen and government support with the cost of living was expanded.
At least 80,000 healthcare workers voted in favor of the strike out of the 280,000 across England who voted, Unison says. Despite a 35% turnout, the union believes workers will receive support in the strike and that the public backs calls for better pay for NHS staff.
Gorton said: “Some 80,000 people said they were prepared in the midst of the worst cost-of-living crisis, they are prepared to go without pay to draw government attention to the dire state of wages. Things will get worse as we head into winter.”
Unison’s health committee will discuss what the strikes will look like on Wednesday, as they will have to meet “strict” legal requirements if they are to coordinate with other groups.
Saffron Cordery, acting chief executive of NHS Providers, welcomed the call for the army’s support during the industrial action.
“This is something that has been raised in recent days and I think it will be very welcome for the military to play a role,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I think it’s probably clear that it’s going to be a role on the margins. For example, the army helped during the pandemic, but it was in things like helping with the vaccination campaign… We will welcome their support, but they will not play a central role in maintaining the ambulance service.”