Ambulance workers in London showed solidarity with nurses’ strikes on 15 December. Now ambulance strikes need support

Nurses’ strikes this week hit the floundering Tories hard. Now they face a second round as ambulance workers in England and Wales prepare to walk out too.

The GMB union has announced strike dates for more than 10,000 ambulance workers across nine trusts in England and Wales on Wednesday 21 and Wednesday 28 December. Action will involve paramedics, emergency care assistants, call handlers and other staff. Unison union members working as part of A&E road crews in five ambulance trusts in England will strike on Wednesday 21 December.

More than 1,600 workers in the Unite union at three trusts in England are scheduled to strike on 21 December.

The combined weight of the three unions acting together will decimate ambulances services across Britain—and highlight both pay and the dire NHS crisis.

The Tories and the right will doubtless accuse strikers of risking lives. But any ambulance worker could tell them that lives are at risk every single day because the service is at breaking point. Stories of elderly fallers waiting for more than 12 hours for an ambulance are commonplace. And so are desperately long waits for people with category two emergencies—including those having heart attacks and strokes.

Last month, 37,837 patients waited more than 12 hours to be admitted to hospital after the decision was made to admit themup 255 percent on 2021, and 3,303 percent higher than in November 2019.

The government is readying 750 troops to scab. And it is also bringing in other forces to strike-break.

In August, the NHS started a £30 million four-year contract with St John Ambulance to provide “surge capacity” to ten ambulance trusts and act as an official auxiliary service for England. A recently leaked government document shows a plan to “build on the approach recently agreed with St John Ambulance” during strikes. No trade unionist should agree to work alongside soldiers or other strikebreakers.

Unions must not give an inch to any blackmail. The Tories’ austerity policies created this crisis, and they are solely to blame for anyone suffering.

Unions must stand by their demand for a rise that meets inflation as a minimum. Only a substantial increase can stave off the flood of people leaving the service and enable trusts to recruit new staff.

The action announced by unions has a complex timetable:

London: 21 December Unison midday to midnight

South West Ambulance Service: 21 Dec: GMB 6am to midnight, Unison midday to midnight 28 Dec GMB midnight to midnight.

South East Coast Ambulance Service: 21 Dec GMB 6am to midnight, 28 Dec GMB midnight to midnight

North West Ambulance Service GMB:  21 Dec midnight to midnight, Unison midday to midnight 28 Dec GMB midnight to midnight.

South Central Ambulance Service: GMB:21 Dec 6am-6pm, 28 Dec GMB midnight to midnight 

North East Ambulance Service: GMB 21 Dec midnight to midnight, Unison midday to midnight 28 Dec midnight to midnight

East Midlands Ambulance Service: 21 Dec 6am-6am 28 Dec 6am-6am

West Midlands Ambulance Service: GMB 21 Dec midnight to midnight 28 Dec GMB midnight to midnight

Welsh Ambulance Service: 21 Dec GMB midnight to midnight, 28 Dec GMB midnight to midnight

Yorkshire Ambulance Service: GMB 21 Dec midnight to midnight, Unison midday to midnight 28 Dec GMB midnight to midnight

Unison has also provisionally scheduled further days of action for 11 January, 23 January, 10 February and 22 February.

Activists should try to find out precise details of next week’s walkouts by visiting ambulance stations in advance of the strikes. And union leaders must call for widespread solidarity with all the NHS actions.

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