by an ambulance worker
Ambulance workers across the UK are in dispute over pay. Although a section of ambulance workers are covered by the national "Whitley Council" agreements, the vast majority negotiate pay locally with their ambulance trusts. These negotiation usually result in acceptance of a deal that follows the national lead.
However this year several UNISON branches, including south and west Yorkshire, Scotland, Wales, and Sussex, are balloting for some form of industrial action.
Over the past five years the work of ambulance crews, especially those doing emergency work, has changed drastically. Paramedics, whose job has recently become state registered, are continually taking on new drugs and extending their skills - bringing increased workload and responsibility. In most areas of the country this role change has involved no pay increase. Initially workers were keen to extend their role and provide additional care for patients. Thus no push for greater pay - until this year.
Paramedics (the best paid of non-management ambulance workers) earn around £20,000 a year, with no enhancements for shift work and no increases for time served. The Government has promised improvement as part of a new pay scale for the NHS under Agenda for Change. Ambulance employers and the unions have held this up as the way forward on the issue of pay. However, Agenda for Change has been a long time coming and the promise of a future hefty pay rise has added to the growing militancy on pay.
To date the disputes across a number of branches have arisen independently of each other. At the soon-to-be-held UNISON national conference of the ambulance sector links between branches should be formed. A new email list has been set up to aid communication between branches. To subscribe send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org