Ambulance workers strike as government pushes for ‘fair’ pay

Thousands of ambulance workers are staging more strikes as the Chancellor has been urged to find the money to pay health workers “fairly” to end the strikes.

p up 15,000 Unison ambulance workers are on strike for the third time in five weeks on Monday and are supported by 5,000 of their NHS colleagues at two Liverpool hospital trusts.

More strikes by nurses and other NHS workers are planned in the coming weeks.

The unions have accused the government of not wanting to find a solution to an escalating and bitter wage dispute.

It’s very simple, the chancellor just has to raise the money to pay health workers fairlyUnison Secretary-General Christina McAnea

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said striking NHS workers must be offered a double-digit pay rise, but described the government as appearing willing to “talk about anything, but they won’t talk about pay”.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said the solution was “simple” and “stares the government in the eye” but “most ministers look like they’d rather step in and do nothing than raise salaries”.

Ms McAnea accused Chancellor Jeremy Hunt of “blocking progress”.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has described having “constructive discussions with unions over the next year’s pay process for 2023/24” but unions have called for a review of pay payments for 2022/23.

Steve Barclay said further strikes by ambulance workers this week were “extremely disappointing” and would “inevitably” lead to disruption to healthcare.

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Sharon Graham has accused the government of not being an honest negotiator (Jacob King/PA)

Thousands of Unison, Unite and GMB union members march through England and Wales on Monday.

From 7am, paramedics, paramedics, ambulance technicians, a further 999 crew members and control room staff from five services in England – London, Yorkshire, North West, North East and South West – joined the picket line.

Porters, cleaners, nurses, midwives, health workers, theater staff and other NHS workers at Liverpool University Hospitals Trust and the city’s Heart and Chest Hospital are also on strike.

On Sunday, Ms Graham indicated union members were considering a 10% pay rise and said Labor should show “real leadership” by coming out and saying it would offer it if they left the party at the power would be.

Last week, Mr Barclay appeared to rule out a 10 per cent pay rise for nurses, saying it was “unaffordable”.

I’m negotiating with someone who I don’t think wants a solution and it’s a real problemUnite General Secretary Sharon Graham

Ms Graham accused the government of either being incompetent when it comes to negotiations or wanting to privatize the NHS.

She told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “The public is supporting this pay rise, as we can see from polls, and we have the employer, in this case the government, who will talk about everything, but they won’t talk about numbers. “

She described Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as “missing action” and said she believes the government is either at an “unreal” level of incompetence about negotiations or “see this as the moment when they can privatize the NHS”.

In what appeared to be a sign of bad relations between government and unions, Ms Graham accused ministers of “lying” and not being an “honest partner on the other side of the table”.

She said: “I’m negotiating with someone right now who I think doesn’t want a resolution and that’s a real problem.”

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Ambulance workers to strike again on Monday (Victoria Jones/PA)

Ms McAnea said: “The solution to the growing NHS crisis is staring Government in the face. It’s very simple, the chancellor just has to raise the money to pay health workers fairly.

“The public wants the Government to end the dispute, as do NHS staff, but most ministers look as though they would rather step in and do nothing than raise salaries and help turn the ailing NHS on its head .”

She added: “It is strange that the Chancellor is blocking progress. Jeremy Hunt knows the NHS better than anyone in Cabinet.

“As Health Secretary he negotiated the collective agreement to end the 2015 NHS strike and as Chair of the Health Select Committee he pushed for fair pay. But as chancellor he has chosen to forget all that.”

Stuart Richards, GMB chief organiser, said: “Instead of working to solve the problems, this government has demonized the ambulance workers who insured life and limb on strike days.

“The only way to resolve this dispute is with a decent salary offer. We are waiting.”

In a statement on Sunday, Mr Barclay said: “It is extremely disappointing that some ambulance workers are continuing to take industrial action. While we have contingency plans in place to mitigate risks to patient safety, further disruption will inevitably occur.

“It’s important people continue to come in for treatment – call 999 in life-threatening emergencies and use NHS 111 online, local pharmacies and GP services for non-life-threatening care.

“I have had constructive discussions with unions about the 2023/24 wage process over the coming year and am very keen to continue talking about what is affordable and fair.”

NHS Medical Director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: “As with other ambulance strikes, the message to patients remains that it is important to come forward and seek emergency care if needed.

“This includes calling 999 for life-threatening emergencies, as well as using 111 online for other healthcare needs, where you can get clinical advice on the best next steps.

“People should also continue to use local services, such as pharmacies and GP surgeries, that are not affected by strikes as usual.”

February 6th will see what is likely to be the biggest strike action the NHS has ever seen, with thousands of nurses and ambulance workers on the scene over strikes if no agreement is reached by then.

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/ambulance-workers-on-strike-as-government-urged-to-pay-fairly-42306652.html Ambulance workers strike as government pushes for ‘fair’ pay

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