Unison has announced two 24-hour ambulance worker strikes in January, adding it will start balloting members for further strikes in the spring.
The strikes will take place on 11 and 23 January and involve all ambulance workers – not just 999 crews – employed by services in London, Yorkshire, the North West, North East and South West.
The union added that, after the Christmas break, it will ask 13,000 staff at 10 trusts – including the remaining five ambulance trusts – if they are prepared to take strike action in the spring, as turnout in its previous ballot had fallen below the required threshold at some trusts.
Unison described its announcement as an “escalation” of yesterday’s walk-out from noon to midnight. Unison members were joined in yesterday’s walk-out by members from GMB – who went on strike for 24 hours – and Unite – who were on strike from 6am to 6pm.
However, the union said many ambulance service employees were likely to be exempted from action under “emergency cover plans” drawn up locally, as was the case this week.
Some regions saw Unison exempt call handling staff from Wednesday’s action altogether.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said only through talks would the dispute end, adding no health worker wants to go on strike in the new year.
It has been reported today that Steve Barclay is considering offering NHS staff an early pay rise in the spring, which would mean bringing forward the pay review body process.
However, Ms McAnea was critical of suggestions the government could “speed up” next year’s pay process and said it would not solve the current dispute.
She added: “The government must stop using the pay review body as cover for its own inaction. This year’s pay rise simply wasn’t enough to halt the exodus of staff from the NHS.”
Unison is also planning to re-ballot healthcare workers at Great Ormond Street Hospital Foundation Trust, Liverpool Women’s FT, London’s Tavistock and Portman FT and the North West-based Bridgewater Community Trust and for the NHS Blood and Transplant service.