WORKFORCE: Hundreds of frontline staff at an ambulance trust could be taking strike action by the end of the month.

Unite the Union is balloting 450 staff at Yorkshire Ambulance Service Trust over the next two weeks over a long running row on workforce changes. Unite is opposing the introduction of emergency care assistants – who will work alongside paramedics - as, it says, they will not have enough training. It is also opposed to down-grading of otehr roles, although the trust has offered pay protection to members whose posts would change.

If Unite members support action, they could launch intermittent strikes and an overtime ban by the end of the month.

The trust has recently derecognised Unite after 95 per cent of its members rejected management’s proposals. The trust is trying to make savings of £46m over the next five years which, Unite claims, is driven by a desire to achieve foundation trust status.

Stephen Moir, deputy chief executive at the trust, said: “Unfortunately the working relationship with Unite the Union has been deeply disappointing over a prolonged period.  We have not received a constructive contribution to the difficult decisions that the trust has been required to make for the future, particularly as we seek to maintain high-quality care for patients against the realities of the tough economic climate.”