Union members in the ambulance service are considering a 48-hour strike in the New Year to escalate action in the pay dispute in the NHS.
The two-day stoppage, should it go ahead, will start at noon on January 29th and end at noon on January 31st.
Union members have already taken part in NHS strike action in October and November to demand that the Secretary of State for Health “stops burying his head in Whitehall and meet with GMB and all health unions to resolve the dispute”.
The four-hour stoppages were followed by action short of a strike with an overtime ban in the ambulance service and other NHS employees working to contracted hours.
But, in an official ballot of its NHS members, the GMB found overwhelming support for industrial action.
Rehana Azam, GMB NHS National Officer, said: “It is regrettable that GMB has no alternative but to escalate the strike action in the NHS. The Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, is acting irresponsibly with a continued entrenched position by not engaging in any meaningful talks with the health unions.”
He went on: “Further stoppages across the NHS are inevitable should Jeremy Hunt continue to refuse to hold discussions to settle the pay dispute. This is a dispute he created when he dismissed an independent pay review body’s recommendation for NHS staff pay.”
And Steve Rice, GMB Ambulance Chairman, said: “I have worked for the Ambulance Service for almost four decades and in this time have worked under 17 Secretaries of State for Health. Never have I experienced staff morale at such a breaking point and that is why the GMB is calling an urgent GMB Ambulance meeting to discuss the details of a potential two-day stoppage across the ambulance service.
“Escalation is always a last resort but in the absence of any real talks from government or employers we have nowhere else to go.
“Our A&Es are in a crisis and we have taken the responsible position by not striking over Christmas. This goodwill will not continue in the New Year.”
He added: “NHS staff are the backbone of the NHS and while the pay recommendation by the independent pay review body didn’t go far enough, it cannot be just dismissed by the Secretary State for Health.”