Ambulance strikes: Unite members in Wales stage walk-out in ongoing pay dispute

  • "We're striking for better conditions for ourselves but more than that, we're striking for better conditions for our patients."

People are being advised to only call 999 in "life-threatening" situations as ambulance workers across Wales take part in a fresh day of strike action.

More than a thousand staff who are members of the Unite union are walking out for 24 hours on Thursday 19 January, with another strike planned for January 23.

It is the first day the union have taken part in industrial action but follows two previous strikes from GMB union ambulance workers.

Staff are walking out in a dispute over pay and working conditions. Unite members claim the offer of a below inflation pay rise has "escalated the staffing crisis engulfing the Welsh NHS".

The Welsh Government says it cannot make a better offer without more funding from Westminster.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said the UK Government must balance pay demands with “recognising we also have to be careful stewards of public money overall”.

Stacey Good has worked within the ambulance service for nearly 17 years and said the ability to deliver has become more and more stretched.

"When I started, on a 12 hour shift we would average possibly six to eight patients a day," she said. 

"Now we do one patient, if we do two we're busy, if we do three we're rushed off our feet because we cannot off load those patients at hospital."

Ms Good said she was taking part in the strike on Thursday not just over the issue of pay.

She said: "We're striking for better pay but that's not what it's all about.

"We're striking for better conditions for ourselves but more than that, we're striking for better conditions and a better service for our patients. At the moment the public are not getting the service I know the ambulance service can deliver."

She added: "People say we shouldn't be striking because patients are dying, but we're seeing patients dying everyday, we're seeing patients suffering every day and that's got to change. It's not acceptable.

"We're holding patients on the back of ambulances for hours and hours on end because we can't off load them and it's just not an that's a big part of the strike."

Ambulance workers took to picket lines across Wales on Thursday 19 January.

On January 19, there will be 23 picket lines across Wales after Unite members voted by 88% in support of striking.

There will still be emergency cover on strike days but people have been advised they may not receive an ambulance if they dial 999 and their circumstance is not life-threatening.

Unite Wales regional officer Richard Munn said: “Ambulance workers across Wales have had enough. They are not willing to sit back and see the vital lifesaving service that they provide continue to be driven into the ground.

"The stress on our members builds every day. Another below inflation pay rise is the final straw.  Devaluing pay every year whilst the ambulance service staff are faced with more and more pressure has resulted in the current strike action. 

"This strike is overwhelmingly the will of our members and we need the Welsh and UK Governments to take this incredibly seriously."We accept that Welsh Government have a desire to resolve this dispute but their current proposals are clearly not enough to end this dispute."

  • Richard Munn said striking was "a last resort" but staff feel they have "no other option"

Speaking to ITV Wales in December, Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: "We are in a situation in Wales where we are dependent on the money that's given to us by the UK Government.

"We're a poorer, sicker and an older population than they have in England and that should be reflected in the amount of money that we get.

"We need some more money in order to increase any pay offer that we could give to NHS workers."

January 19 will be the third day in the past few months ambulance workers in Wales have taken part in strikes.

Ambulance workers have announced further strikes on 6 February, 20 February, 6 March and 20 March.

The walk-out on 6 February will be the first co-ordinated day of action as paramedics, emergency care assistants, call handlers and other ambulance staff strike alongside more than a thousand nurses who are part of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).