Wigan ambulance workers on the picket line in national dispute over pay
Wigan’s ambulance workers are on the picket line taking strike action in a dispute over pay.
Staff from North West Ambulance Service gathered outside Wigan Community Fire and Ambulance Station on Wednesday to make their voices heard.
Many passing drivers at the busy Saddle Junction beeped their car’s horns to show their support to the strikers, who were joined by members of Wigan Trades Council, Arrow XL workers taking their own industrial action and other supporters.
Around 25,000 ambulance workers and paramedics in England and Wales have walked out, calling on the Government to increase wages as the cost-of-living crisis bites.
It is expected that all category one calls – the most life-threatening such as cardiac arrests – will still be responded to, along with the most serious category two calls, which covers serious conditions such as stroke or chest pain.
Wigan paramedic Jonny White, who is Unison branch chairman, said: “Unison, along with other unions GMB and Unite, are taking industrial action to help pay, staffing and to try to stop the Government ruining the NHS.
"At the moment, hospitals are as busy as they have ever been. Ambulances are waiting outside for up to 10 hours and it’s taking us hours and hours and hours to get to patients.
"None of us – staff, reps or managers – want to strike and it’s important to understand that the dispute is not with the North West Ambulance Service, it’s with the Government. Ultimately what we want is for the Government to listen, to pay us for what we do, to recognise the crisis within the NHS and to help stop the current crisis in order for us to be able to get to patients in a safe and timely manner.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay, who has said he will not move on the issue of pay, urged people to “use their common sense” to avoid needing an ambulance.
A spokesman for Wigan Trades Council said: “Ambulance workers were joined by striking Arrow XL workers from Unite, members of the public, hospital workers from the infirmary, teachers, GMB workers and Unison Metro workers. This excellent picket line showed the support for the strikes from union members and the public. 'From Frontline to the Breadline' was their slogan and it fit the occasion.
"The response of the Government to these strikes is an absolute disgrace and full of lies. Steve Barclay's message that ambulance workers have ‘taken the conscious choice to inflict harm on patients’ is typical of someone who has nothing but contempt for the working class.”
Industrial action by ambulance staff comes just a day after nurses walked out in their campaign for a pay rise. While staff at Wigan’s hospitals voted in favour of the action, they did not take part as only half of sites in England are currently involved.
Bosses at Wigan’s hospitals also declared a “critical incident” yesterday and urged people not to go to the A&E department, unless they were in a limb or life-threatening condition, because it was “full”.