AMBULANCE staff from one union are due to strike and another is threatening strike action as a dispute over working terms and patient safety comes to a head.

The Unite union has decided to take more industrial action after accusing Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) management of refusing to take part in further negotiations on patient and staff safety.

The union’s 375 members will hold two five-hour strikes from 3pm on Friday and Monday over the introduction of longer shift patterns that they say could mean staff working ten hours without a meal break.

Meanwhile Unison, which represents three quarters of Yorkshire Ambulance Service’s 4,000 ambulance workers, said “negotiations had been exhausted”. Following a heated meeting in York last week, the union said it will ballot for industrial action unless its list of demands is met.

A North Yorkshire paramedic, who asked not to be named, said: “Nobody wants to strike or take action because it does mean people will suffer.

“Patients are getting reduced ambulance cover. If you have a heart attack or trauma you need hospital - a car, which they are using to meet targets, does not get you there - an ambulance does.
“They are going to end up with burnt out paramedics.”

A Unison statement said members had “no confidence” in YAS chief executive David Whiting and his team.

It is demanding changes to meal breaks, including the option to have two breaks on a 12 hour shift, the end of obligatory overtime, a full review of the lower skilled Emergency Care Assistant role, introduced by YAS last year, and a promise that two ECAs do not work together.

Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “It is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed as a result of staff exhaustion.”

Unite’s Yorkshire ambulance members have taken strike action six times over the last year over patient safety concerns.

YAS said it would continue to work with Unison for a “positive outcome” but said Unite was striking without concession “for the most seriously ill and injured patients”. It said it continues to seek on-going dialogue with Unite the Union through Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service).

A YAS spokeswoman said: “We remain focused on providing safe, responsive and high-quality services to patients and looking after the welfare of our staff.”