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England: Ambulance services strike for more money

Status: 12/21/2022 4:23 pm

Thousands of UK rescue workers are on strike for more pay. The government is mobilizing soldiers to transport ambulances – and the NHS health service is advising against getting drunk at Christmas parties.

Health workers in England are on strike again, this time including ambulance workers. 25,000 staff in the NHS health service, including ambulance drivers and staff in control centers and emergency rooms, have been called for a 24-hour strike. It is the biggest strike in British emergency services for 30 years and frontlines have been strained.

The Government and the NHS are calling on people to be careful not to harm themselves. Avoid unnecessary car journeys and contact sports. Don’t get drunk at Christmas parties: “It’s party time and Christmas is fast approaching, so have fun but don’t get drunk and risk an unnecessary trip to the hospital emergency room,” said the NHS. Directed by Stephen Powis.

Mutual accusations

The government has mobilized several hundred soldiers to help as drivers during the strike – but only to transport ambulances, not in emergencies. Health Secretary Steve Barclay accused unions in the Conservative newspaper Telegraph of making a conscious decision to harm patients. The NHS’s emergency plans state that not all emergency calls will be processed.

Unions strongly rejected this as “misleading” and “bad deliberate intimidation”. Serious emergencies will also be attended to during the strike. However, the British Ambulance Service is overburdened even without the strike, and waiting times for ambulances are often longer than planned.

GMB union boss Rachel Harrison called Barclay’s words a “disgrace” to emergency service workers. They were “forced to go on strike” because the government “didn’t listen to them year after year”. Christina McNea, general secretary of the trade union Unison, said the government was behaving “absolutely irresponsibly”. Any loss of life caused by the strike is solely the fault of the government.

Employees demand significantly more money

Unions are demanding a significant increase in wages above inflation, which stood at 10.7 percent in November. Health Minister Barclay recently offered only four per cent and refused to negotiate more. The government refers to the collective bargaining committee which recommended a lower wage increase than the unions demanded. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has told the “Daily Mail” that there is no money for wage hikes in the current financial year. For the coming year, however, he hinted at an offer.

“We will not back down,” declared Steven Thompson of Unite, the union representing ambulance crews. It is a matter of telling the government that we will not allow employees to erode their benefits. The next strike has already been announced: on December 28, rescue service workers want to stop work again.

Strike wave in Great Britain

Tens of thousands of nurses and hospital staff in the NHS have already been on strike in the past few days. This is the first strike for the RCN nursing staff union in the union’s 106-year history. Other industrial groups are also fighting for higher wages: border officials are on strike on Friday, railway workers have been on strike since Christmas, and postal workers have been on strike repeatedly for months.