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Dudley paramedics may strike if crunch talks over sick pay fail
12:00pm Wednesday 11th September 2013 in News
PARAMEDICS in Dudley could be on strike within weeks if crunch talks fail to cure a row about sick pay.
Ambulance chiefs and trade unions are locked in eleventh-hour discussions over cutting extra sick pay based on staff working unsociable hours.
The change came into effect across the NHS in England on September 1 but unions argue ambulance staff are exempt and, if a solution cannot be found, a ballot on industrial action will follow.
UNISON regional organiser, Ray Salmon, said: "There are discussions and we are at the stage where they need to be resolved or we are going into a dispute.
"Staff are very angry at what is being proposed, they deliver everything the public asks of them, way above what people could expect."
Unions argue the removal of the unsociable hours supplement to sick pay, which is calculated based on how many unsociable hours individual ambulance staff work, could cost some of its members up to a quarter of their sick pay.
They say sickness absence tends to be higher among ambulance workers than other NHS staff because they work in confined spaces with patients regularly endure highly traumatic and stressful situations.
Steve Rice from the GMB union said: "No ambulance worker wants to take sickness leave.
"To cut our sick pay and to penalise us because we take sick leave because of the work we do seems wrong and unfair."
A consultative ballot on the change, which would apply sickness absence unless it is caused by a work-related illness or injury, resulted in 94 per cent of UNISON ambulance workers rejecting the plan.
West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) is a foundation trust and not directly controlled by the NHS but bosses say they are sticking with national policies.
In a letter to staff, Kim Nurse, WMAS director of workforce and organisational development, said: "The Trust has always been clear that, although it has become a foundation trust, it will continue to abide by the national Agenda For Change agreements and this means it will implement them in full."
WMAS, which is not involved in direct talks with unions, refused to comment on the dispute and instead released a statement from the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE).
Martin Flaherty, AACE managing director, said: “We recognise that NHS ambulance staff have a challenging and demanding role providing high levels of care for patients 24 hours a day and we are very grateful for their continued professionalism and dedication to patient care."
“We will continue to do everything we can to support Ambulance Staff locally to ensure that are able to deliver consistent high quality care for patients.”
Ray Salmon believes WMAS should be talking to its staff. He said: "The law is the employee is in dispute with the employer - so discussing this at a national level is ridiculous."
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