England's ambulance workers vote to strike before Christmas

More than 80,000 health workers across England have voted to down tools

A row of ambulances outside the Royal London Hospital emergency department last week. Getty
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Ambulance workers across England are set to strike before Christmas over pay and staffing levels, the Unison union said.

After a vote in favour of industrial action, Unison said thousands of 999 operators, ambulance technicians, paramedics and their colleagues working for services in the north-east, north-west, London, Yorkshire and south-west will be called out on strike.

“The decision to ​take action and lose a day’s pay is always a tough call. It’s especially challenging for those whose jobs involve caring and saving lives," said Unison general secretary Christina McAnea.

“But thousands of ambulance staff and their NHS [National Health Service] colleagues know delays won’t lessen, nor waiting times reduce, until the government acts on wages.

"That’s why they’ve taken the difficult decision to strike.

“Patients will always come first and emergency cover will be available during any strike. But unless NHS pay and staffing get fixed, services and care will continue to decline.

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“The public knows health services won’t improve without huge increases in staffing and wants the government to pay up to save ​the NHS.

"It’s high time ministers stopped using the pay review body as cover for their inaction.

“[Chancellor] Jeremy Hunt, [Prime Minister] Rishi Sunak and [Health Secretary] Steve Barclay must roll up their sleeves and start talking to unions about how better wages for staff can help start to turn the NHS around.”

More than 80,000 health workers across England have voted to go on strike and although ​the vote was just below the 50 per cent threshold in many ​trusts, ​ministers should be in no doubt about the level of anger and frustration from NHS workers, Unison said.

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The union’s health committee is analysing the results of the ballot and will decide what happens next.

Health workers belonging to Unison and working in Northern Ireland have already voted to take action over pay and staffing.

In Scotland, Unison is recommending its NHS members vote to accept the latest offer from the Scottish government, which includes a £2,205 ($2,635) increase for the lowest paid staff, and more for those on higher bands.

That vote closes on December 12. In Wales, the threshold necessary for strike action was not met anywhere, and its health committee will meet to decide on its next steps.

Updated: November 29, 2022, 11:42 PM