Ambulance workers in Bristol and the wider Avon region are to ballot for strike action over the agenda for change pay and conditions deal. The ballot involves 350 members of the Unison union.
A ballot over the same issues is already underway in the Tees, East and North Yorkshire service. Similar disputes are emerging in other services across the country.
Health managers from strategic health authorities and the department of health have stepped into negotiations over the implementation of the deal.
They have blocked attempts to transfer ambulance technicians into band five of the new pay structure. Health managers want these workers to be on lower pay rates on band four.
The other issue across the service is that of meal breaks. Ambulance workers can be sent out during meal breaks to answer emergency calls, but managers don’t want this to be included in their working hours.
Other problems have added to the anger in Bristol. The union cites as a key issue disparities in pay – rising to almost £4,000 – between staff doing the same job, but with different shift patterns.
It is crucial that the Unison union coordinates the rash of disputes breaking out in the ambulance service.
Only such a response can match up to what is a concerted attempt by New Labour to claw back financial deficits in the NHS by attacking wages and conditions.