Strike moves closer

THE threat of industrial action by hundreds of ambulance staff covering the Weston area has moved a step closer.

Union leaders say 96 per cent of members say they would support strike action in protest at changes planned by Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS).

The service is proposing shift patterns, which it says will not mean staff working longer and salaries cut. But the union says the changes will remove ambulance crews’ right to two unpaid rest breaks in 12-hour shifts, potentially affecting paramedics’ performance.

It also fears the move will mean a ‘slimming down’ of ambulance cover at non-peak times from Weston.

Unison branch chairman and paramedic Ian Whittern said: “Our ballot shows that 97 per cent of our members have lost confidence in the management of GWAS.

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“The service should be working to decrease the pressure on ambulance crews in order to reduce the risks of making mistakes, especially in adverse environments, and therefore improve patient care.

“This is a critical situation. Ambulance crews are flagging up serious safety concerns but we are being ignored by managers more interested in steam rolling unproven and dangerous changes to shift times and rest breaks.”

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The questionnaire by the union was not a formal ballot for strike action, but it indicated what the results would be if an industrial action ballot was issued.

The union invited senior executives from GWAS to meet with staff representatives in order to find a mutually agreeable way forward that provides the best for patients and staff.

A spokesman from Great Western Ambulance said: “The changes to shift start and finish times are so that we can keep as many staff on the road at any one time.

“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.”

GWAS provides the emergency ambulance service for 2.2million people living in Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.

Unison, the public sector union, represents more than 800 staff working for the service.

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