Ambulance workers have announced a new strike date after Government pay talks with nurses left other unions raging.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) called off a 48-hour strike planned for next week when health secretary Steve Barclay agreed to ‘intense’ discussions.
However, the offer has angered other NHS staff who accused ministers of playing ‘divide and rule’ by only agreeing to talk to the College.
Unison retaliated by revealing healthcare assistants, cleaners, porters and ambulance staff it represents will now walk out across England on March 8.
It insisted there can be ‘no pick-and-mix solution’ and warned the decision to talk only to the RCN ‘could make a bad situation much worse’.
NHS ambulance staff from the union Unison will walk-off the job for another day in March as retaliation for the Government holding pay talk with only the Royal College of Nursing. Picture from a previous ambulance staff strike on February 20
While the RCN now paused a planned 48-hour strike action for March 1, industrial action by other unions is still going ahead with NHS ambulance union Unison announcing a new day of industrial action on March 8
Health workers at NHS Blood and Transplant, Great Ormond Street Hospital, the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool Women’s Hospital and the Bridgewater Community Trust will be among those now walking out for the first time.
They will be joined by ambulance staff at four services in England – South Central, East of England, West Midlands and East Midlands, also now able to take action following a strike vote last week.
This means staff will be on picket lines in all but one ambulance service in England.
Unison members working for ambulance services in London, Yorkshire, the North East, North West and South West – who have already taken action on four previous occasions – will also walk out on March 8.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: ‘Unfortunately for patients, staff and anyone that cares about the NHS, the strikes go on.
‘There can be no pick-and-mix solution. NHS workers in five unions are involved in strike action over pay, staffing and patient care.
‘Choosing to speak to one union and not others won’t stop the strikes and could make a bad situation much worse.
‘The entire NHS team is absolutely determined to stand firm for better patient care.
‘They’ll be furious at the Government’s failure to invite their union in for talks, not least because a deal just for nurses cannot possibly work, and nurses belong to other unions too.
‘Next month staff in all but one of the ambulance services in England will walk out.
‘They’ll be joined by thousands more NHS colleagues, many striking for the first time.
‘The action by NHS Blood and Transplant Staff will hit blood collection across the country too.
‘By holding solo talks, the prime minister is condemning patients to many more months of disruption.’
Dr Suzanne Tyler, from the Royal College of Midwives, said: ‘This divide and rule tactic by the Westminster Government will not work.
‘There are millions of health workers represented by the health unions and we remain united in our campaign for a better deal for all of our members.’
The British Medical Association said Mr Barclay refused to meet the co-chairs of its junior doctors’ committee today ahead of three consecutive days of strike action next month.
In other NHS union news the British Medical Association (BMA) accused Health Secretary Steve of ‘dragging his heels’ for refusing to meet them directly following the doctor’s union’s successful strike ballot
More than 47,000 junior doctors could hold a devastating three day strike in March following the BMA ballot. The situation is similar to the 2016 junior doctors pay dispute (pictured) which was the last time medics took to the picket line over pay
Dr Rob Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, met Mr Barclay’s officials, and told them it was not too late to stop up to 47,600 medics below the rank of consultant walking out of hospitals, including A&E.
In a statement released afterwards, they said: ‘There was no offer on the table and the Department made it clear they are not ready to enter negotiations but we left the Department of Health civil servants in no doubt that it is still not too late to avert a strike.
‘We have now written to the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay asking to meet with him within the next 24 hours; frankly, he has dragged his heels for far too long.
‘The Government has agreed to enter a process of intensive talks with other unions but the strength of feeling of our junior doctor members is being resolutely ignored.’
Meanwhile, the National Education Union (NEU) has said teachers could pause strike action planned for next week if ‘real progress’ can be made in negotiations.
Members are due to launch regional walkouts on February 28, March 1 and March 2 in the ongoing row over pay and recruitment.
Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the NEU, said they will recommend pausing the strikes to the union’s national executive on Saturday if the government comes forward with a serious proposal.
They said: ‘We reiterate – we are ready to negotiate. We are prepared, should the negotiations make real progress, to pause next week’s strikes. ‘But the government has to show good faith.
‘We ask ministers to drop its preconditions and to begin serious negotiations. We ask ministers to engage in earnest so that we can achieve what is surely a common objective – uninterrupted schooling for the nation’s children and young people.’
It comes after Education Secretary Gillian Keegan wrote to teaching unions inviting them to ‘formal talks on pay, conditions and reform’ on the condition that next week’s strike action in England and Wales is cancelled.
However, the wave of transport strikes that have swept the country since last year is set to continue, after Aslef announced that drivers on London Underground will walk out on Budget Day – March 15 – in a row over pensions and working arrangements.
Downing Street declined to comment on the fresh talks between the RCN and the Government, stressing it was right that talks took place ‘privately’.
No10 said that it wanted a deal that is ‘fair’ for all taxpayers.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘We are now in a period of discussion that start today and will continue in the coming days, so I won’t be commenting on the detail of those discussions while they are taking place.’
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was ‘grateful’ to the College for entering into talks and calling off their strikes next week.
Almost 140,000 ops and appointments have been cancelled because of NHS strikes this winter. That toll includes the biggest ever strike to rock the ailing health service on February 6, involving tens of thousands of nurses and paramedics
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, he said: ‘I’m very pleased that the Government is in intensive talks with the Royal College of Nursing to find a way forward.
‘As I’ve always said, we were keen to discuss these terms and conditions, and I’m glad that those conversations are now happening.’
Answering another question, Mr Sunak said: ‘I am grateful to them for entering into those talks with a spirit of constructive attitude, but also (for) calling off their strikes next week.’
Addressing the teachers strike, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘We’re obviously disappointed given, I think, the NEU and many other unions have wanted to talk about pay and have wanted to have these discussions for some time.
‘We are inviting them to have those discussions, so it is obviously regrettable they are not choosing to pause strike action.
‘The discussions and the talks are on the basis that they do stop strike action – there will be no talks, obviously, if they do not take that step.’