Published: 11/08/2005, Volume II5, No. 5967 Page 8
Paramedics have passed a vote of no confidence in managers at North East Ambulance Service trust over their implementation of Agenda for Change.
The vote comes against a backdrop of discontent at some ambulance trusts across the country about payment for meal breaks and enhanced grading for technicians and paramedics.
Last week, in a bid to ease resentment NHS Employers and the Department of Health issued a joint statement with unions Unison, GMB and T&G committing to the successful implementation of the scheme by the end of next month.
'It was agreed that a priority was that the integrity of the new pay system had to be maintained and that consistent and fair outcomes are reached for all involved, ' the statement said. 'The national partners continue to have confidence in and support the procedures outlined in the agreement and urge that these be followed in all organisations.' Department of Health director of workforce Andrew Foster said despite 'rumblings' of discontent across the ambulance service, just three out of the 31 ambulance trusts are having problems over the grading of paramedics and technicians.
At least 20 have resolved this satisfactorily and many are among the most advanced in the NHS in their implementation of Agenda for Change.
'As of July, 48 per cent of staff [across the whole of the NHS] had been matched and put on the new gradings.' He added: 'But that doesn't mean there are not all sorts of rumbles going on all over the place. There is a disproportionate amount happening in ambulance trusts, but we mustn't forget that they are getting 20 per cent more funding than the rest of the NHS.' The Unison branch at NEAS is taking a different line from the national body, and hopes the unanimous no-confidence vote by 70 NEAS staff will lead to concessions over pay banding. Paramedics have been placed on band five, which pays up to£24,000, and technicians are on band four, which pays up to£19,000. The local branch of Unison wants band six (up to£30,000) and band five respectively.
In a statement, the trust said local union and staff representatives had been involved throughout the whole process. 'It was jointly managed and, we feel, robust and fair. It is difficult to understand this vote of no confidence when the unions were jointly involved in the process the whole way through.' Ambulance staff in the West Midlands and Shropshire have threatened strike action llowing accusations that Birmingham and the Black Country strategic health authority interfered in pay talks with West Midlands Ambulance Service trust.
Unions at East Midlands Ambulance Service trust have lodged an appeal on banding and unions at Sussex Ambulance Service trust have one into formal dispute with trust chief executive Paul Sutton over his handling of the negotiations.