Ambulance strikes on hold as minister agrees to pay talks
AMBULANCE strikes planned for next week have been called off as unions prepare for pay talks with the Health Secretary.
After the GMB vowed to escalate walkouts by refusing to respond to some heart attack and stroke victims, Steve Barclay agreed yesterday to meet representatives of the ambulance workers.
Tens of thousands of key workers had been due to walk out on Monday and Wednesday, but the GMB and Unison unions said ministers had promised there was enough cash for pay rises over two years.
The GMB, whose strike was set to involve 13,000 workers, had changed its exemptions so that many workers would respond only to lifethreatening ‘category one’ calls, where a person’s heart has stopped or they are not breathing.
It meant category two calls, such as heart attacks and strokes, would not typically receive an ambulance.
Rachel Harrison, national secretary of the GMB, said: ‘This is a huge shift from the Government, who for months have refused to consider negotiations on pay. The Government has given assurances of additional cash for both years above existing budgets.’
However, the union threatened the strike would ‘return with a vengeance’ if talks broke down. Sara Gorton, from Unison, which called off walkouts by 32,000 staff, also said strikes would resume if discussions – which are due to take place early next week – are not ‘meaningful’.
GMB members in the Welsh Ambulance service have also agreed to suspend strikes on Monday.
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We want to start these talks as soon as possible and are ready to meet over the weekend.’
Around 3,000 ambulance staff who are members of the Unite union are still set to walk out, which the spokesman called ‘disappointing’.
‘We urge them to call off strikes and join other unions at the negotiating table,’ they added.