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Bosses Adopt Bullying Tactics Against Striking Ambulance Workers

Joe Hill | 10.08.2006 17:03 | Health | Social Struggles | Workers' Movements | Liverpool

The chief executive of the North West Ambulance Service resorted to bullying tactics last night, in an attempt to weaken solidarity between striking ambulance workers, ahead of this weekend's scheduled fifth stoppage.

As previously reported on Liverpool Indymedia, the dispute began when the employers double-crossed workers over a pay review they said would be 'binding on all parties'. When the review gave them the 'wrong' answer, the employers used a range of spoiling tactics in an attempt to enforce lower rates for ambulance technicians.

Now John Burnside has threatened striking workers with the sack over the ongoing dispute. He said his trust board would "as a last resort" consider dismissing staff who continued striking beyond eight weeks.

"We will take whatever steps are necessary to resolve this dispute," said Mr Burnside. "If there's no resolution then as a last resort the trust board would have to consider dismissal of any employees taking strike action, to protect patient care."

Burnside also used the time-honoured bosses' trick of claiming that some staff have complained to managers that they were bullied into joining strikes. But by threatening dismissal for anyone who stands up to him, it is he that is being a bully.

Ambulance Service Union official Ray Carrick reacted with anger last night, and said any threats to technicians jobs could spark a walk-out across the whole of the Mersey region.

The ASU originally called the walk-out after a ballot of its 200 members. Now the Ambulance Service Union (ASU) has said it will strike later this week, on Friday and Saturday nights.

The ASU fears technicians will be placed in Band 4, on a salary of £19,000 each, a cut for some as they currently earn anywhere between £19,000 and £21,070.

The union wants to see them placed at the bottom of Band 5, on £21,118, with a full 25% un-social hours bonus. If they are placed on Band 4, their overall rise would effectively work out at a total 14% including the un-social hours bonus, for those who qualify for the full amount.

It is the first time ambulance staff have been on strike in Merseyside for more than 20 years.

Ambulance workers don't take strike action lightly, knowing how important their jobs are to the welfare of the general public. However, it is precisely because they serve us all so well that we should support them against their employers' dodgy dealings.

Burnide's 'patient care' claim is a sham. If the staff were sacked, patients would suffer terribly. The solution is not to abandon the strike but to extend it, in solidarity with other branches of health care facing cuts because of the government's privatisation agenda. The more people go on strike, the more the bosses have to listen. Burnside's remarks are a sign of his desperation.

Joe Hill