NHS strikes latest

Unite GS calls on PM Rishi Sunak to intervene on eve of ambulance strike - as last ditch meeting with health minister branded 'pointless'

Reading time: 4 min

On the eve of the strike of ambulance paramedics on Wednesday (December 21), Unite’s general secretary says it’s clear that the health minister Steven Barclay can’t resolve the dispute so it’s time for the prime minister to intervene. England should follow the Scottish example of negotiation, increasing the offer and ending the strike.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “In all my 25 years of negotiating deals with employers, I have never seen such an abdication of responsibility as that by the prime minister Rishi Sunak today. It is well beyond time for him to intervene and break the deadlock in the NHS dispute.

“The general secretaries of all the unions involved are prepared to negotiate but the PM needs to come to the table now. It’s time to stop hiding behind the discredited NHS Pay Review Body. He needs to name the time and place. If need be Downing Street on Christmas morning – a new deal and the dispute could be nearing resolution before it’s time for Christmas lunch.”

The Unite leader also blasted government ministers for deliberately misleading the public about the extent of cover for emergencies needing an ambulance when the strike starts tomorrow.

Sharon Graham added, “It’s time to call things by their real names. The unions have agreed to provide cover tomorrow for life threatening emergencies (Category 1 cases) and serious cases like heart attack and stroke (Category 2 cases). That has been agreed at a host of local NHS Trusts.

“Frankly, at best, the government is misleading the public on this, and at worst deliberately scaremongering. The idea that patients are at risk all of a sudden because of strikes is ludicrous. The horrendous staff shortage in the NHS mean that patients can be at risk every day. It’s government ministers, like Wills Quince and Steven Barclay, who are actually holding the country to ransom, not the unions.”

Also on the eve of the strike, Unite national lead officer Onay Kasab attended a ‘last ditch meeting’ with health minister Steven Barclay, which Kasab branded as ‘pointless’.

“The meeting was made entirely pointless by the attitude of Steven Barclay who refused to discuss pay,” he said. “How he hopes to get movement and resolve the dispute without discussing the key issue is mystifying.

“It is disgraceful that the government is failing to take action to avoid NHS strikes, the unions are willing to talk but the government isn’t,” Kasab added.

“Barclay was only prepared to talk about derogations, which was futile as these have been thrashed out and agreed down to a fine tooth-comb at a local level,” he continued.

“His appeal that the agreements on emergency cover are respected was frankly insulting. Our members are taking strike action as an absolute last resort as they witness the NHS crumble on a daily basis. Not only are they committed to covering emergency calls tomorrow, but our members will immediately leave picket lines if a trust for any reason can’t cope with emergencies.”

By UniteLive team