Talks to resolve strike
PUBLISHED: 14:00 13 January 2011
CRISIS talks are taking place this week to resolve a dispute between district ambulance bosses and union representatives.
The discussions were launched after staff at Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) voted overwhelmingly to strike in protest over a change to their shifts.
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.
Talks between Unison and GWAS managers began last Friday, but no resolution was found, so talks have continued this week in a bid to end the threat of a walk-out.
UNISON representative Simon Newell said: “We are still talking. We simply have not made enough progress to end the dispute.
“Meaningful discussions have taken place and some progress has been made, but we’re still a long way off resolving our differences, so discussions will have to continue into next 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.