Two unions call off ambulance and NHS strikes as they agree to talks with government

The biggest strike on Wednesday, which would have involved 32,000 Unison members including ambulance and NHS staff, has been called off, as Martin Stew explains.

Strike action by thousands of ambulance workers planned for next week has been suspended after unions agreed to further talks with the government.

Ambulance workers had been due to walkout next Monday and Wednesday in a dispute over pay and conditions.

But a "huge shift" from Downing Street has persuaded the GMB, Unison and Unite unions to return to the negotiating table.

The largest strike, which would have involved 32,000 Unison ambulance and NHS workers on Wednesday, has been called off.

However, around 3,000 Unite members still plan to walk out on Monday, meaning some ambulance strikes will go ahead as planned.

On Friday, Health Secretary Steve Barclay wrote to unions to inform them that talks could now take place on pay for both 2023 and 2024, while improvements to other terms and conditions will also be discussed.

According to unions, they have been assured that there is additional cash for both years above existing budgets, and that any deal would respect the existing Agenda for Change structure.

Talks between both parties are due to get underway next Monday.

Elsewhere, GMB members, striking in the Welsh Ambulance service, have also agreed to suspend action on Monday for further talks with the trust and the Welsh government.

ITV News had previously revealed that paramedics were planning to escalate strike action by cutting back on emergency cover for "category 2" calls, including heart attacks, and strokes.

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Rachel Harrison, GMB National Secretary, said: "GMB ambulance workers announced a tightening of the derogations for cover on strike days.

"Less than 24 hours later we received a letter from the Secretary of State for Health, Steve Barclay, inviting us and other unions to pay talks.

"This is a huge shift from the government, who for months have refused to consider negotiations on pay. Now, they are saying they are willing to sit down and talk.

"The government has given assurances of additional cash for both years above existing budgets and that any deal will respect the existing Agenda for Change structure.

"GMB's ambulance workers have agreed to suspend industrial action so talks can begin - however the strike will return with a vengeance should talks break down."