AMBULANCE staff in East Lancashire have joined colleagues across the region in voting for industrial action, as part of a dispute over allowances and staffing cover.
Although they secured enough votes to go on strike, members of the GMB union have instead opted to refuse overtime shifts in the first week in August. The North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) workers also signed up to a ‘withdraw of goodwill’ in the same week.
The dispute centres around the trust’s Cost Improvement Programme for 2014/15, which proposed cutting £6.5 million from the emergency service budget.
Although the most controversial aspects of the plan, including a reduction in weekend paramedic cover in Blackburn, Burnley and Nelson, have been suspended for a year, workers said the savings will still need to be made once the temporary funding runs out.
Crews are also furious about the withdrawal of mileage and subsistence allowances for staff working overtime.
The announcement follows a ballot in which 94 per cent of members voted in favour of industrial action short of a strike, while 73 per cent voted for strike action.
Branch secretary Steve Rice said the withdrawal of goodwill meant staff would cease certain duties which are not within their contracts, such as starting shifts early to check their vehicles.
He added: “The trust are saying we are not required to work overtime, to justify cutting the expenses payments, but its a daily occurrence for an email to go round asking for shifts to be filled. It’s not a great deal of money but it’s wound up a lot of staff.”
The Unite union said it was ‘concerned’ about the situation, but had no plans for industrial action. Unison was unavailable for comment yesterday.
A spokesman for NWAS said: "As always, the trust’s main consideration will be ensuring that care of patients will not be affected.”