IN ANOTHER blow to New Labour's flagship scheme for the NHS-Agenda for Change-ambulance workers in north east England have voted to strike against changes to their conditions.
Under Agenda for Change every NHS worker will be moved to a new contract. But many groups of workers are finding that they will lose out under the scheme. The North East Ambulance Service is one of the early implementer sites testing Agenda for Change. The ambulance workers, who are members of the Unison union, found that they would lose paid meal breaks under the new contracts.
Earlier this year the workers voted by 96 percent in a ballot to indicate that they were not happy with management's proposals. Now workers have voted strongly in favour of strike action. Three quarters of the Unison members took part in the ballot with the strike vote going through by 294 votes to 19. The ambulance workers are set to strike next Monday.
This follows a magnificent walkout by medical secretaries and other staff at Sunderland hospital, another early implementer in the region, two weeks ago as the impact of Agenda for Change came home to workers. There is simmering discontent across much of the NHS, which may come to a head this autumn when health workers are set to ballot nationally on whether to accept to scheme.