GMB Calls For Talks With Ambulance Employers To Avert Official Ballot For Strike Action In Dispute Over Cuts To Sick Pay
NHS Employers need to seriously consider the outcome of the Unions consultation on their staffs’ position before they impose cuts that could put the public at risk
GMB, UNISON and Unite members working in England’s ambulance services have voted to reject proposals to apply up to 25% deductions to sick pay. 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.
Ambulance services operate a shift system to ensure a 24 hours a day 7 days a week service for the public. An annual supplement known as an 'unsocial hours payment' (USH) is applied to compensate ambulance staff for working outside normal hours. USH allowances make up between 9 and 25% of salaries for most 999 staff. Employers have proposed a way of removing this USH payment when staff are absent through illness.
Paramedics and other ambulance staff have had between 8 and 12% cut from the value of their pay over the last few years. As more and more ambulance staff work extra hours to cope with the rising costs of living, the rejection shows that members can’t and won’t take any more cuts. In addition to worrying about paying their bills, ambulance staff are feeling the pressure of mounting workloads, increases in violence and abuse, and - unless the Government make changes to their pension plans- also face the prospect of working until they are nearly seventy.
In the course of their work, ambulance staff are exposed to high levels of physical, mental and emotional risk, which makes them vulnerable to illness. With sickness levels at consistently higher levels than the rest of the NHS, Ambulance Trusts could make more effective savings through addressing the causes of ill health rather than looking to make staff pay for Government cuts.
All three ballots resulted in overwhelming rejection and is a clear sign that ambulance staff won't accept further cuts.
Rehana Azam GMB National Officer for the NHS said, "GMB Ambulance Sector agreed to carry out a two month consultation on the proposal set out by the employer to cut sickness pay by up to 25%. The GMB Ambulance Sector agreed on a longer timescale because they knew any potential rejection would have serious implications for the service. GMB Ballot closed on Friday 23rd August and after a detailed examination of the vote it is clear GMB members have voted overwhelmingly to reject any attempts to cut their sick pay and the result of the ballot has shown that ambulance workers are prepared to take industrial action to defend their sick pay'
GMB is of the view that if national employers or any ambulance trust locally seeks to impose the cuts in sick pay after this overwhelming rejection, the GMB will be pushed immediately to trigger the industrial action ballot process.
GMB call for an urgent meeting with employers and asks them to do the sensible thing and leave alone the sick pay of 999 emergency ambulance workers.
The ball is now in the employers’ court, they have to decide whether they want to pick a fight with ambulance staff who are working under some of the most difficult conditions. NHS Employers need to seriously consider the outcome of the unions consultation on their staffs’ position before they impose cuts that could put the public at risk. GMB calls for the employers to do the sensible thing and leave sick pay alone.”
Steve Rice GMB Chair of the Ambulance Committee said "I have worked in the ambulance service for over 30 years. Ambulance staff are heartily sick and tired of being pushed around and say 'enough is enough'. These cuts to our sick pay are a step too far particularly as my ambulance colleagues are working under tremendously difficult pressures. No ambulance worker wants to take sickness leave. Job cuts in the service have required us all to do much more than previously and we don't want to let the public down or our ambulance colleagues. To then cut our sick pay and to penalise us because we take sick leave because of the work we do seems wrong and unfair".
Christina McAnea, Chair of the NHS Staff Council said, “The danger now is that employers impose these changes without agreement, which in our view would be unlawful and would force our members to act. We’re all keen to avoid disruption of 999 services to the public, but the employers need to take note of the strong reaction from members to this proposed cut and not risk going ahead without consent.”
The trade unions will hold an urgent meeting with employers to make sure that the dangers of imposing these changes are fully explored.”
Contact: Rehana Azam GMB National Officer on 078411 81656 or GMB Press Office; 07921 289880 or 07974 251823 or 020 7391 6755 or UNISON - Anne Mitchell on 020 7121 5546 and Unite - Barrie Brown on 07798 531022.
Notes to Editors:
No changes have been made for NHS Staff in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.