As part of overall cuts to the NHS in Yorkshire, Yorkshire Ambulance NHS Trust is replacing highly trained frontline ambulance staff with unqualified crews. Unite the Union, which has 500 members in the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, has been de-recognised by the management of the Trust for raising serious patient safety concerns as a result of these money saving measures. Richard Vivian of Unite the Union reports on the latest action by union members against NHS cuts in Yorkshire.
As part of overall cuts to the NHS in Yorkshire, Yorkshire Ambulance NHS Trust is replacing highly trained frontline ambulance staff with unqualified crews. Unite the Union, which has 500 members in the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, has been de-recognised by the management of the Trust for raising serious patient safety concerns as a result of these money saving measures.
Outside the headquarters of the Ambulance service on 2nd September, where Unite members affected were taking another day of strike action, Unite activist and leader of Unite Ambulance, Debbie Wilkinson spoke to Socialist Appeal on why Unite members were taking strike action to protest about the way that the trust were treating her members:
“The outcome of negotiations on a workforce plan held over two months last year, resulted in the trust demanding that a new Emergency Care Assistance (ECA) role be agreed by Unite and Unison (the other union involved). The terms of the new ECA would mean that new employees would be taken on with only six weeks training, six weeks clinical training, and six weeks driving, in order to work alongside paramedics. We saw this as not only a downgrading of our jobs but as a potential safety issue for the public relying on ambulance staff to help them in emergency situations.”
Debbie then went on to tell Socialist Appeal supporters that Unite rejected the plan whilst Unison members accepted a five year agreement with Yorkshire Ambulance Trust. Because Unite members rejected the plan they were de-recognised by the trust only four days after the rejection. The members voted for selected days of strike action and an overtime ban.
Since then, 330 ambulance emergency staff, including members of both unions, have been downgraded from band 4 to 3 and 100 new employees have been taken on with lower wages and conditions on the terms of the new ECA and the same grade as existing downgraded staff, who have full and comprehensive training in order to be able to fully assist the paramedics and the public. Although the wages of existing staff are protected for five years, the longer term effect will be to diminish the skills and status of ambulance support staff and they will eventually lose £2,500 a year, which is totally unacceptable to Unite members. Today’s protest, outside the headquarters of the trust, is the second day of action and Debbie and her members are willing to fight on until victory.
Unite calls for:
No cuts to patient care
- Frontline medical staff to be given the best training, with all staff upgraded back to band 4.
- Immediate re-recognition of Unite the Union.
- An immediate return to negotiations.
- The 500 Unite members will not be silenced!
Protest about this situation in writing or by email to:
David Whiting, Chief Executive, Yorkshire Ambulance Service
Springhill 2, Wakefield 41 Business Park, Wakefield WF2 0XQ
Unite is fighting for you!