Strike over shift changes

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Paramedics have voted to go on strike in a dispute over new shift patterns.

Members of the Unite union at Yorkshire Ambulance Service will strike for 24 hours on Saturday and for four hours on Monday.

Unite claims its members could go for 10 hours without a meal break because of changes to working patterns and the introduction of 12-hour shifts at the organisation.

The union, which represents about 375 of the ambulance service’s 4,600 staff, said its members voted for strike action by a margin of 76 per cent.

Terry Cunliffe, Unite’s regional officer, said: “Our members are taking action as they are very concerned about the scale of these changes and how they will impact on patient safety in Yorkshire.

“The shift patterns are not family-friendly and will lead to an overtired workforce.”

Unite said it wanted a protected meal break of 30 minutes after six hours for its members.

Mr Cunliffe said Unite had made an offer of talks to resolve the dispute to ambulance service chief executive David Whiting.

Ambulance service bosses have questioned the union’s mandate for strike action, saying fewer than half of Unite members took part in the ballot.

Ian Brandwood, executive director of people and engagement at Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said: “We are disappointed with the Unite ballot result.

“There is no mandate for strike action with only 40 per cent turnout from Unite members; only 150 people participated in the vote from our total workforce of over 4,600.

“Strike action is certainly not in the best interests of our patients and it reflects the thoughtless conduct of Unite.

“We would like to reassure members of the public that Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust is committed to minimising the level of disruption to its services during any periods of industrial action and we have robust contingency plans in place to ensure we continue to provide responsive, effective and safe services for our patients.”

The strike was called almost a year after Unite was de-recognised by the ambulance service for negotiations on behalf of its members last February.

The union called strikes in April and June last year in a long-running dispute with ambulance bosses over patient safety.