AMBULANCE workers picketed outside stations across South Yorkshire during a 24-hour strike over staffing changes.
Members of the Unite union at Yorkshire Ambulance Service walked out until 6am today, after representatives failed to reach an agreement with bosses following eleventh-hour talks over the Easter weekend.
Chiefs at the ambulance service want to introduce emergency care assistants to work alongside paramedics, as part of measures to save £46 million over the next five years.
Terry Cunliffe, Unite regional organiser, said the proposals were ‘dangerous’ – but David Whiting, chief executive of Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said he found the strike ‘deeply concerning’.
The walkout involved 450 paramedics and other ambulance staff across South Yorkshire.
Unite represents about 10 per cent of the service’s workforce.
Paul Mudd, trust locality director of emergency operations, said the ‘vast majority’ of staff worked as normal. He said: “The trust recognises the legal right for those of our staff who are members of Unite to participate in industrial action, but our focus is to balance that right with the need to first safeguard patient care and safety.
“I do not believe industrial action in this form is in the best interests of patients.”
Mr Whiting said: “It is deeply concerning for a trade union representing ambulance service workers to strike without making any concessions to patient safety.”
He said the walkout placed many employees in a ‘very difficult situation’.
But Mr Cunliffe said: “We believe these proposals are dangerous and our members are prepared to stand up and fight for the public in order to maintain their safety.”
Members of other unions provided emergency cover.
Unite members remain on a continuous work-to-rule and further strikes have not been ruled out.