Ambulance workers from Unite union go ahead with strike despite fresh Welsh Government pay offer

  • Sharon Graham from Unite explains why she has rejected the latest pay offer.

Ambulance workers from the Unite union have gone ahead with their planned walk out, despite all other health unions suspending their strike action.

It comes after the Welsh Government offered a fresh offer on Friday (February 3) following an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.

The union confirmed their plans to strike on Monday and Tuesday (February 6 & 7).

It has also announced further strike dates for Welsh ambulance workers in an escalation of the union's industrial action. Unite members employed by the Welsh Ambulance Service will strike on the 20, 21 and 22 February.

General secretary from Unite, Sharon Graham, told ITV Cymru Wales it would have been "disingenuous" to take the offer to her members, knowing full-well it would have been rejected.

"This is about solving this dispute for the long-term. There's no point stopping and starting this, it's not good for patients, it's not good for the NHS as a whole.

"I think we're tantalising close and I think that could happen if they get an offer that is slightly better than the one that's already there."

She argued the distribution of the 3% increase is not effective and doesn't deal with the "fundamental issue", stating that instead of 1.5% going towards a lump-sum, it should be incorporated into wages.

Furthermore, the Union spokeswoman acknowledged the work by frontline workers during the pandemic and added they now want "a decent pay rise to remunerate them for the work that they're doing."

With the "end in sight", Graham recognised the effort and negotiating taking place with both the Welsh and Scottish government - having recently accepted the offer in Scotland.

However, compared to England, she explained that its core decision makers had "never been in the room and we've never had a conversation about pay in England since these disputes have been going on."

She questioned whether Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was "up to the job" or perhaps there was "a more sinister reason why he's not coming to the table".

Unite's Sharon Graham said it would have been "disingenuous" to take the offer to members knowing they would reject it. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

It comes as nurses, midwives, physiotherapists and other ambulance workers from their respective unions - Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and GMB - have called off their planned action in the hopes of reaching an agreement with the Welsh Government.

The deal amounts to a 1.5% non-consolidated and 1.5% consolidated one off payment for 22/23 - on top of the already imposed 4.5%. The Welsh Government has confirmed negotiations for 23/24 will begin "almost immediately".

The Welsh Ambulance Service is still urging the public not to call 999 over the two days of Unite strikes (February 6 & 7) unless it's "life-threatening", despite the latest reduction in a number of strikes.

More than 2,600 members of Unite have walked out across the UK, with around 1,300 of those in Wales. Members of Unite will stage ten further strikes over the coming weeks and additional dates could also be announced.

However, other ambulance workers from the GMB union are some of those who have suspended their strikes.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan announced an increased pay offer on Friday (February 3). Credit: PA Images

Its Welsh NHS lead, Nathan Holman, explained: “After intense negotiations, GMB has agreed to suspend strike action while further talks take place. We recognise that the Welsh Government and Welsh Ambulance have made concessions and, through social partnership, we appreciate the frank and open dialogue with them over the last few months.

"This has only been made possible because the Welsh Government has been prepared to talk about pay – a lesson for those in charge on the other side of the Severn Bridge. We are a member led union, ultimately they will decide."

In response to the ongoing industrial action, the Welsh Government has urged the various health unions and its members to take "the only deal in town".

Asked if she hopes the suspension of strikes by unions is the “light at the end of the tunnel”, Health Minister Eluned Morgan explained: “I do hope so, but obviously the final decision will be by the members of these unions. But I think what’s important is that they understand that this is the only deal in town.

“The end of the financial year is coming very soon, and obviously the money disappears at the end of the financial year so there is an issue for people to consider there.

“And I do think that there’s a lesson here for the UK Government – UK Government needs to understand that, in order to get any kind of deal, you need to sit down, you need to talk and you need to listen. They’re not doing any of that, and I would encourage them to do that.”

Asked about Unite, the Health Minister said: “Unite now, having failed to call off their strike action, obviously are no longer part of the negotiation. So the negotiations continue with the other unions, but they are now not formally a part of that negotiation.

“Obviously, we would like and we’re always ready to continue talking with them. But I’ve been absolutely clear with Unite that there is no more money.”