'Don't waste the weekend' call

Unite warns gov't it has five days to stop NHS strike spreading

Reading time: 3 min

‘Don’t waste the weekend’, says Unite chief as ambulance workers set to join striking nurses on December 21.

The general secretary of Unite the union, Sharon Graham, has today (December 16) called on the Conservative government not to ‘waste the weekend’ but to convene NHS pay talks or see the strikes spread.

Unite’s members across three English ambulance trusts are set to walk out on December 21 over the government’s refusal to shift on its four per cent pay offer. Unite says this is a 10 per cent pay cut while the real rate of inflation, RPI, runs at 14 per cent.

Ambulance staff have seen their wages collapse in value this year, down by £2,400, with NHS pay having fallen by £6,000 since 2010.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “The government now has five days to do the responsible thing by the country.

“It must not waste this weekend. Ministers need to give themselves a shake and get into serious pay talks or see this strike spread next week,” she added.

“Anyone with a passing knowledge of the NHS can see that this government has brought it to its knees. A decade of pay cuts and a chronic staffing shortage is crushing our NHS and putting patients’ lives at risk. Our NHS members feel that they are fighting to save the very NHS itself.

“Unless the government shapes up, this strike will deepen next week and the blame for this will lie firmly at ministers’ door.”

Having voted by up to 92 per cent for strike action, more than 1,600 workers at the West Midlands, North West and North East ambulance service trusts will strike on Wednesday, December 21, 2022.

Jason Kirkham, a Unite member and a paramedic in the West Midlands, added, “This strike isn’t just about pay – it is to save the NHS. The NHS is crumbling, we can’t recruit and retain staff as pay is so low.

“It has got so bad that we have had to open a food bank in my ambulance station.”

Throughout the strike, Unite will ensure essential emergency cover for patients. This is being negotiated with the relevant NHS trusts.

By Ryan Fletcher