Paramedics across the north west are going on strike today - and more could follow suit soon

Ambulances lined up.
Ambulances lined up.
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Paramedics across the North West are today going on strike – with further industrial action looming on the horizon.

North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) paramedics that are members of the GMB union are staging a two hour walk out after more than 84 per cent of members voted for strike action in relation to a long-running pay dispute.

Ambulances at A&E (Photo: PA).

Ambulances at A&E (Photo: PA).

Staff have been waiting since 2005 for an outcome of a job re-evaluation by the trust, with paramedics asking for a change in pay.

GMB stated that they hoped strike action could be avoided but saw ‘no other option’ after their request for an external body to conduct the evaluation of pay was refused by health trust bosses.

Mike Buoey, Organiser at GMB, said: “GMB’s north west paramedics are taking this step reluctantly as a last resort – but they’ve been backed into a corner.

“NWAS asked what they wanted. We told them; an independent investigation into what has happened during the past 13 years and an external evaluation of the job role.

“They flatly refused.”

A significant number of NWAS paramedics are also members of the Unite the union who are currently holding an indicative ballot to see whether paramedics would be prepared to vote in favour of strike action if the decision came to that.

Neil Cosgrove, NWAS paramedic and branch secretary of Unite, said: “This has been going on for 14 years now. Enough is enough.”

He added: “We will get the results on Friday. Then we will approach management with concerns and if they don’t go on board the next step could be a formal ballot.

"Meetings are taking place and are hoping a resolution will be taken before industrial action takes place.”

Before GMB’s ballot took place, Michael Forrest, director of organisational development at NWAS, said: “The trust is committed to resolving the matter in partnership with all our trade unions. Talks are currently taking place and will continue until a resolution has been agreed.”

Michael Forrest, Deputy Chief Executive for NWAS, said: “The trust is extremely disappointed with the actions proposed by GMB and believes it has worked closely with them to try and work through the issues which formed the basis of the ballot.

“We have been made aware that the strike action is proposed to take place today (Monday 18 June). It will only affect paramedics who are part of the GMB Union and have been since August 2016. Those striking will do so at the start of their shift, for two hours, if their shift starts between 0600 and 1200.

“We are unable to say how many staff will be taking action but we do know that there are 135 GMB paramedics rostered to start their shift during this time period on 18 June.”

Mr Forrest added: “Discussions are still on-going to resolve the matter with our other trade union partners UNITE and UNISON and GMB have been invited to meetings where we are seeking to resolve the matter to both parties satisfaction.

“Plans are being put in place to manage our workforce level and if the proposed action does go ahead, our priority will be to minimise the impact on our patients across the North West.

“We will continue to make attempts to resolve these issues as quickly as possible and would like to assure the public that their safety is our primary concern.

“As always, we ask the public to help us by only calling 999 for an ambulance for life-threatening or potentially life-threatening emergencies. For non-emergency health concerns, alternative care and advice can be found though local pharmacies, GP surgeries, walk-in centres or NHS111.”