Ambulance unions continue to clash with ministers as new strike dates announced

Katie Neame
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Unite has announced ten further days of strikes by its members in the ambulance service, with the union warning that additional dates could be confirmed in the coming days. Unite said its representatives will be working at a regional level to agree derogations to ensure that “emergency life-and-limb cover” will be in place during the walkouts. One of the strike dates announced by the union is February 6th, coinciding with action by GMB ambulance staff and members of the Royal College of Nursing. Even prior to Unite’s announcement, NHS Providers interim chief executive Saffron Cordery warned it could be the “biggest day of industrial action the NHS has ever seen”.

Announcing the strikes, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham accused the government of “deliberately misleading the public about the life-and-limb cover and who is to blame for excessive deaths”. The union leader declared: “Our members faithfully provide life-and-limb cover on strike days, and it’s not the unions who are not providing minimum service levels; it’s this government’s disastrous handling of the NHS that has brought it to breaking point.”

Ambulance workers were singled out by the government in the debate on its minimum service levels legislation on Monday, with Grant Shapps accusing unions of having “refused to provide a national safety net”. The Business Secretary claimed that the approach of the unions during previous strikes justified the oppressive anti-strike legislation, telling MPs: “Although the nurses have very sensibly provided a national level of safe service, unfortunately the same has not happened in the ambulance service.” Angela Rayner demanded that Shapps apologise for how he represented ambulance staff during the debate and argued that workers had been “awfully smeared”. The deputy Labour leader reiterated what ambulance unions have said all along, that unions struck local life-and-limb deals on a trust-by-trust basis. “It is the best way to ensure that the right care is provided, and those employers know that,” Rayner said.

On LabourList this morning, we have a piece from Labour for a New Democracy’s Laura Parker, arguing that without proportional representation, Keir Starmer’s plans for democratic reform will be “yet another sticking plaster”. She writes: “No programme to fix our politics and deliver the “completely new way of governing” Starmer says he wants can succeed if it ignores how our primary chamber is elected. The Westminster system is bust – and nothing defines and shapes it more than the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system at its heart.”

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