Ambulance staff vote for industrial action
Ambulance workers in the Bristol area have voted in favour of industrial action in a row over a change to working hours.
Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) members of the Unison union were balloted over changes to shift patterns and meal breaks.
David Whiting, the chief executive of the ambulance service, which operates in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and the former Avon area said he was disappointed when he was informed of the result of the ballot yesterday.
A meeting is being held between management and union representatives in the city centre at lunchtime today.
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GWAS staff were unhappy about new staggered start times that were proposed by the trust, which union members argue would lead to ambulance workers working more than their 12-hour shift as they attempted to get back to ambulance stations in rush-hour traffic.
They are also concerned about proposals for staff to have just one meal break during their 12-hour shift.
The union also claims that GWAS has not followed an agreed procedure about disputes, which they state means the changes should not have been brought in until the issues had been dealt with.
Unison representatives will meet with GWAS management at the ACAS offices in the city centre.
Simon Newell, Unison South West Regional Organiser, said: "Members have not taken any action up until now, but the results clearly demonstrate that our members feel these changes are detrimental to their working conditions, and they are willing to take action if the Trust refuses to retract the changes which were forcibly implemented and engage in proper consultation."
Mr Whiting claims the changes that have been brought in will save more lives.
He said: "The changes to shift start and finish times were made so that we can keep as many staff on the road at any one time.
"These changes are based on evidence and all information has been shared with staff and unions. We have spent the last six months consulting with staff and meeting with union representatives on a regular basis.
"We believe that the majority of staff understand the need for these changes, indeed less than a quarter of our A&E road crews voted for strike.
"It is crucial that we are available when patients call us."
Mr Whiting said that if industrial action is taken contingency plans are in place to make sure that emergency services are not interrupted.