Ambulance crews set to take strike action

PUBLISHED: 10:00 10 January 2011

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AMBULANCE crews in North Somerset have 'overwhelmingly' voted to take part in an organised walk-out over a change to their shifts.

Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) staff signalled their intention to take the industrial action in a ballot organised by Unison last month.

Members claim the implemented changes in working hours remove crews’ rights to two unpaid rest breaks and result in shifts lasting a minimum 12 hours.

Staff also say the changes reduce ambulance cover at non-peak times in towns such as Weston.

Unison South West Regional Organiser, Simon Newell, said: “Members have not taken any action up until now, but the results clearly demonstrate that our members feel these changes are detrimental to their working conditions, and they are willing to take action if the trust refuses to retract the changes which were forcibly implemented and engage in proper consultation.”

The move has resulted in talks between the ambulance trust and Unison in an attempt to find a solution and avoid the strike action.

A meeting was arranged last Friday, but no resolution found and talks have continued this week.

GWAS chief executive David Whiting said: “The changes we are making are about saving more lives.

“To do that, we need to ensure we have the trained staff and vehicles available when and where our patients need us.

“We are taking on additional frontline staff and looking to make our existing staff more effective by increasing their availability at the busiest times – particularly evenings and weekends.

“This is not about job cuts and it is not about cutting salaries.”

Mr Whiting said contingency plans were in place to ensure cover was provided if industrial action took place.

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