Reality Check, Compensation Cheque and a Discount!

I worked for twenty years on the front line at Camden Ambulance Station and, to be honest, Camden is still my spiritual home. It was the first and only station I worked at. I had great times and met great people throughout those years.

It was also a struggle of course which took in the National Dispute, the Computer Crash, real low pay as well as early, well documented, London Ambulance managerial appointment disasters!

I was the Station Steward as well as Branch Secretary of the NUPE (National Union of Public Employees) N/W Ambulance Branch before becoming Convenor, Senior Sector Representative and then Branch Secretary of LAS Unison.

I still have great friends on station and ex Camden staff are dotted all over the Service doing jobs at every level. 

The point of this very quick potted history is that the more responsibility you take on, or is given to you, whether within the Union or the management structure, the more you are forced to move away from what you thought you joined the job for in the first place.

It is a given. It will always happen no matter how you try to hold on. Your priorities, responsibilities and dynamics change. They have to, or you could not do the role you are in or been elected to.

So all that said it is great to be brought down to earth with a bump! And it had to be by a long serving member of staff at Camden!

Of the many emails I receive daily raising issues, concerns and complaints (as well as those thanking the Union) one stuck out that made me think (after, I admit, some resistance) that maybe I had taken some things for granted.

There has been vast improvements within our Service over many years without doubt. Improvements that Unison has led the way on. Nobody can seriously argue that pay and benefits are not substantially better, in real terms, now, then at any other time in this Service’s history.

I am proud of  mine and Unison’s role in that and will never allow others to underestimate what has been achieved. Our Senior Representatives are second to none and help keep the Union in the real world.

But the email got me thinking that for all these improvements notwithstanding, a lot of staff don’t really experience that anything has changed much.  To them the job is still the same, it is still too busy, it is still stressful, it is still too much time critical, it is still too much micro managed and, all in all, it is a thankless job most of the time.

As I said I am proud of what our members and representatives have achieved by helping move this Service into the 21st Century but, if in that same 21st Century staff are constantly stating that they feel harassed and bullied  (whether real or imagined) at work – something is wrong!

The improvements at one end do not match the job reality at the other! It is no good painting the exterior of a house if all the supporting walls inside are in danger of collapsing.

The improvements are real and what the staff feel is also real. The skill is to match the two up. How do we achieve that?

Well, let’s be honest with each other for a start! Let us shout about and be proud of what is good within the Service whilst also accept and acknowledge that there are a lot of things that are not right and these need to be sorted.

The Chief Executive starts his annual consultation meetings in September and I urge as many staff as possible to join in.

Let us begin there by celebrating the good and righting the wrongs – together – honestly.


The Branch recently won compensation of around £9,000 for a member injured doing their job. I believe our Service is safe, and we work in partnership to make it so, but sometimes accidents and incidents happen.

As a Union we do not apologise for taking up cases where we believe our members are hurt or injured through no fault of their own while carrying out legitimate duties, where ever they work, or whatever job they do, within the Service.

Of course when someone is hurt or injured it is not always the fault of the Service. Many times outside agencies are at fault.

Unison legal benefits and representation is second to none. Since March this year we have gained over £54,000 in compensation and since March 1999 (when records began as they say!) we have gained over £1,600,000 in compensation for our members within LAS. Over one and a half million pounds! All that money went to our members to help them recover from injury.

This is one other area of Branch Union work that sometimes is ignored or is not known by many.

You do not have to tolerate being hurt at work. On the other hand accidents are still rare in the big scheme of things, particularly taking into account the size of our Service and the enormous workload.

So as they used to say at the end of Crimewatch: sleep easy, don’t have nightmares and keep yourself safe. these things are not common.


Over 2000 London Ambulance Unison Discount Cards have already been distributed to our members in the last six months. These cards can be used at hundreds of local outlets ranging from restaurants, clothes shops, take aways, sports shops, garage services, gyms plus many national outlets  etc etc. There is at least a 10% discount and in a lot of cases much more. 

Members can also make suggestions to add to the list of shops and retailers in their local area where they live or even by the station or workplace where they work.

If you have not received one please get in touch via the website. This is one more great benefit of belonging to Unison.

Eric Roberts

Branch Secretary