Four more strikes have been called in the continuing dispute on patient and staff safety issues in the Yorkshire ambulance service, starting later this week.
Members of Unite, the country’s largest union, will strike on Friday (21 March), Monday (24 March) and Saturday (29 March) between 15.00 and 20.00 on all three days. There will be a further five hour strike between 03:00 and 08:00 on Monday 31 March.
Unite has cited the continuing refusal of the management at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust to hold constructive talks over patient and staff safety issues for calling out its 375 members on strike.
The crux of the dispute, which is now more than a year old, is the introduction of elongated shift patterns that could mean staff working ten hours without a meal break. 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.
Unite has called for an independent inquiry by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), so the Yorkshire public can judge for itself the impact on patient safety of £46 million of cuts over five years that the trust is implementing.
Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “Our members have shown amazing solidarity over the last year despite the hard line that an obstinate and blinkered management has continued to take.
“Our members don’t take strike action lightly – it has been a last resort – but they feel there are important issues at stake here involving patient and staff safety.
“Once again, Unite calls on the trust’s chief executive David Whiting and his senior management team to enter into meaningful talks – such discussions could only benefit the people of Yorkshire who should be his first priority.”
Unite said that the trust’s proposals would impact on patient safety as ambulance staff could go more than 10 hours without a meal break, as such breaks would be at the whim of managers. The union wants a protected meal break of 30 minutes after six hours.
The union has also expressed concern at the continued and increasing use of private ambulance firms to ‘plug the gaps’ in NHS 999 responses which was particularly noticeable in December and over the Christmas and New Year period.
Unite’s Yorkshire ambulance members previously took strike action on 7 and 10 March; 1, 3 14, 17 February 2014; and 2 April and 7 June last year over patient safety concerns.