On Tuesday night, Unison said members, including 999 call handlers, ambulance technicians and paramedics in the North East, North West, London, Yorkshire and South West, had backed the strike. It affects five of the ten ambulance trusts and three other NHS employers.
However, only 80,000 of the 350,000 members voted for industrial action and the union fell short of the 50 per cent support needed to trigger strikes in many areas.
Christina McAnea, Unison’s general secretary, said: “The decision to take action and lose a day’s wages is always a difficult decision. It is especially challenging for those whose jobs involve caring for and saving lives.
“But thousands of ambulance workers and their NHS colleagues know that delays will not abate, nor will waiting times be reduced, until the government acts on wages.”
On Tuesday, the RCN announced that strikes will take place at 52 places in England, around half of those who voted in favor, as well as at all NHS employers in Northern Ireland and all but one in Wales.
Great Ormond Street, Alder Hey Children’s Hospitals and the major cancer centers Royal Marsden and Liverpool’s Clatterbridge are all involved in the action, along with major hospitals across the country.
Emergency care will continue to be provided during the strike action.
Strikes at hospitals in England, Northern Ireland and Wales are likely to mean the cancellation of thousands of operations, with discussions later this week to decide whether to halt life-saving services such as chemotherapy.
The nurses union said it would extend the action to more NHS organizations in January unless negotiations take place.
No nurses’ strikes are currently planned in Scotland, where negotiations are ongoing.
Pay raise ‘obviously unaffordable’
Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, has said that the RCN’s demands for a 19 per cent wage increase are “obviously unaffordable”.
The RCN says experienced nurses are 20 percent worse off in real terms due to successive below-inflation awards since 2010.
On Tuesday night, Pat Cullen, RCN’s general secretary and chief executive, said: “Ministers have rejected my offer of formal wage negotiations and have instead gone on strike. It has left us no choice but to announce where our members will go on strike in December.
“Nursing is defending the profession and its patients. We are sick of being taken for granted and unable to provide the care patients deserve.
“Ministers still have the power and means to stop this by opening negotiations to address our dispute.”
During Britain’s last national ambulance strike, in the winter of 1989/90, the Army was recruited, along with volunteer drivers and the police.
The industrial action began with a ban on overtime, with measures intensified so that ambulance crews were limited to emergency calls to 999.
No strike in Scotland
Last week, GMB Scotland announced a suspension of strikes due to start on Monday while the union consulted with members on a 7.5 per cent wage offer from the Scottish government.
It comes amid a new wave of strikes on Wednesday by Royal Mail workers, university teachers and sixth-form university staff, in one of the biggest strikes yet to coincide.
Rail, Maritime and Transport union members in Network Rail and 14 train operators they are also planning 48 hour strikes on December 13-14 and 16-17, and January 3-4 and 6-7, as well as the prohibition of overtime at Christmas.
Commenting on the RCN announcement, Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, said: “I am enormously grateful for the hard work and dedication of the nurses and deeply regret that some union members will take action on the job.
“These are difficult times for everyone and economic circumstances mean that the RCN’s demands, which according to current figures are a 19.2 per cent pay increase, costing £10bn a year, are not affordable.
“Our priority is to keep patients safe. The NHS has tried and tested plans to minimize disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate.”