WIGAN’S ambulance workers look set to go on strike over cuts to sick pay after unions backed their move for industrial action.
Unite, Unison and the GMB warned that the prospect of industrial action was “an inevitable reality” unless employers backed down.
Union leaders at the TUC in Bournemouth said 35,000 ambulance drivers including those in Wigan and other workers in England could be forced to work while ill because of the 25 per cent cuts to their sick pay.
The motion said: “999 ambulance workers are doing an incredible job looking after the public whilst government policy is crippling the NHS and driving ambulance services to crisis point.”
Union chiefs say the proposals were put forward in June as a way of matching the changes made earlier this year to sick pay for other health workers, at a time when many NHS organisations are looking to cut staffing costs as a way of funding the Government’s cost saving programme in the health service.
Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB, said: “Despite months of negotiations the final proposals from the NHS employers simply weren’t good enough and our members rejected them by over 90 per cent.
“Ambulance workers have had to put up with pay restraint and increasing workload and feel they are the pinch point in the NHS squeeze.
“They won’t put up with a draconian cut to their sick pay which could see them being forced to work while ill to avoid losing money.
“Who wants an ambulance turning up at an emergency with the medics coughing and sneezing all over the place? It’s stupid.
“Nearly all members also said they would be prepared to take industrial action to defend their sick pay and so we have registered formal industrial disputes with the NHS Employers and every ambulance trust.
Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said: “It is very disappointing that unions representing ambulance staff have gone back on an agreement on sick pay reached by the NHS Staff Council in February. This is not the way to work in partnership. It is only fair that the same approach to sick pay is used for all staff covered by the agreement, including those in the ambulance service.”