Welsh Ambulance Service staff stage fresh walkouts
Ambulance workers will stage fresh strikes today in their dispute over pay and staffing.
The Welsh Ambulance Service said they’re working alongside Unite to ensure patient safety is maintained during the strike action and will prioritise the most ill and vulnerable.
The Welsh Government offered ambulance staff a one off payment earlier this month in a bid to halt industrial action but it was rejected by unions.
This will be the second 24-hour strike from the Welsh Ambulance Service so far this month.
Walkouts from ambulance staff across Wales will also be joined by ambulance workers in England amounting to more than 2,600 Unite members.
The Chancellor has been urged to find the money to pay health workers “fairly” in order to end the escalating and bitter dispute over pay and working conditions.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said a double-digit pay rise must be offered to striking NHS staff, but described the UK Government as appearing willing to “talk about anything, but they won’t talk about pay”.
Ms Graham accused the Government of either being incompetent when it comes to negotiations and accused the Prime Minister of being “missing in action”.
In what appeared to be a sign of poor relations between the Government and unions, Ms Graham accused ministers of “lying” and not being “an honest partner at the other side of the table”.
She said: “I’m negotiating with somebody at the moment that I don’t think wants resolution and that’s a real problem.”
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said the solution is “simple” and “staring the Government in the face” but that “most ministers look like they’d rather dig in and do nothing instead of boost pay”.
“The solution to the growing NHS crisis is staring the Government in the face. It’s simple, all the Chancellor needs to do is find the money to pay health workers fairly.
“The public wants the Government to end the dispute, so do NHS staff, but most ministers look like they’d rather dig in and do nothing instead of boost pay and help turn the ailing NHS around.”
She added: “It’s strange that it’s the Chancellor blocking progress. Jeremy Hunt knows the NHS better than anyone in the Cabinet.
“As health secretary, he negotiated the wage deal to end the 2015 NHS strike and pushed for fair pay when Health Select Committee chair. But as Chancellor he’s chosen to forget all that.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay has described having had “constructive talks with unions about this coming year’s pay process for 2023/24” but unions have been calling for the 2022/23 pay award to be reviewed.
Steve Barclay said further strike action by ambulance workers this week is “hugely disappointing” and will “inevitably” cause disruption to healthcare.
Last week, he appeared to rule out a 10% pay rise for nurses, saying it was “not affordable”.
Stuart Richards, GMB senior organiser, said: “Instead of working to solve the problems, this Government has demonised the ambulance workers who provided life and limb cover on strike days.
“The only way to solve this dispute is a proper pay offer. We are waiting.”
The Welsh Ambulance Service has warned people to think carefully before calling 999 during strike action and to only do so in an absolute emergency.
NHS medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: “As with other ambulance strikes, the message to patients remains that it is vital 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 health needs where you will receive clinical advice on the best next steps to take.
“People should also continue to use local services such as pharmacies and general practice as they normally would which aren’t impacted by strike action.”
February 6 is likely to see the biggest strike action the NHS has ever experienced, with thousands of nurses and ambulance workers due to stage walkouts if no deal has been reached by then.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.