Ambulance workers, university staff and some civil servants will strike today as the UK goes through another week of industrial strife.
Thousands of ambulance staff across five services in Enfland – London, Yorkshire, South West, North East and North West – are taking action today.
The strike will only affect non-life-threatening calls and people (like similar ambulance strikes in the past) are advised to only call 999 in an emergency.
Members of three unions representing first responders have staged walkouts since December – and they have their reasons.
For members of Unison, the UK’s biggest trade union, today, years of low wages are not the only reason ambulance workers are striking again.
The UK is facing a crisis in ambulance response times as part of a wider breakdown of NHS services, which workers say is affecting their health – and their patients.
Countless stories of patients in excruciating pain waiting hours for an ambulance to arrive have become all too common, due to rising demand, a shortage of A&E beds, severe staff shortages, worsening working conditions and years of government funding cuts.
Delivery times – how long it takes to get someone out of the ambulance and into A&E – are up.
NHS figures show almost four in 10 ambulances in the week leading up to Christmas Day were 30 minutes late dropping off patients – the highest on record.
The situation is so bad, London Ambulance Service reportedly waits just 45 minutes before delivering patients to A&E. Crews have been told to unload patients onto trolleys, signal to a nurse and then leave.
Unison health chief Sara Gorton said last month: “Ministers must stop fooling the public with promises of a better NHS without lifting a finger to solve the staffing emergency staring them in the face.
“The government should stop playing games. Rishi Sunak wants the public to believe that ministers are doing their best to resolve the dispute. Is not.’
Gorton said the government was delaying pay talks as it waited for the 2023 pay review process to be completed at the end of May.
Meanwhile, Unison added that it would vote 10,000 more members in England, so the further strike would be one of the biggest yet.
Along with ambulance workers, university staff will also form picket lines today for a second day.
More than 70,000 staff at 150 universities are set to walk away over pay, pensions and conditions, according to the University and College Union (UCU).
Union officials say the current workload for academics is too intense and employment practices are “unsafe”. 90,000 staff are on precarious contracts of just a few weeks, with some working an average of two days without pay a week.
Also on the bargaining table are pensions, with the UCU saying workers have had benefits displaced so much that the average worker stands to lose 35% of their future pension income.
This amounts to hundreds of thousands of pounds for new starters.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “It is no surprise that university staff have overwhelmingly rejected a low offer of 5% from employers, this is a huge pay cut in real terms which would leave our members worse off.
“We are striking for 48 hours this week and will take escalating action until we get a fair deal. ‘
Elsewhere, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff are picketing today.
The Union of Public and Commercial Services (PCS), which represents many civil servants, says the job action is a “response to the government’s lack of movement on its demands for pay, pensions and job security”.
Job security and redundancy terms are two of the biggest reasons for the strike, with the union pointing to government plans to close more than 40 DWP offices.
Workers in Liverpool – at Toxteth Jobcentre, Liverpool Duke Street Jobcentre, Liverpool City Jobcentre and Liverpool Innovation Park Jobcentre – are walking out.
Staff at Stockport Contact Center and Bolton Service Center will also.
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