“Change the record” I hear people say “we get the message. LAS Paramedics should be in Band 6!”
It has sounded like a broken record at times but, believe me, that broken record has helped the message get through to a once ‘fingers in the ears’ Senior Management.
While we are not yet jointly singing from the same song sheet with management, we are, I am pleased to say, setting out writing the lyrics like Lennon and McCartney!
Here’s hoping it turns into ‘We Can Work It Out’ and not ‘Hello Goodbye’!
It is important that our Paramedics are put into Band 6 of Agenda for Change (AfC). Not only because some other Ambulance Services have already done it. Not only for the financial benefit, and not only for the recruitment and retention problems we have within the LAS.
All those reasons are important of course, and all good reasons to act, but, the main reason is the recognition of the job our Paramedics do in London. The job they do in the Capital City day in and day out. The job they do for Londoners. It is shameful that the London Ambulance Service has lagged behind other Services in backing their staff and putting their money where their mouth is. The Service has never been short on praise.
Praise doesn’t pay the rent and fine words butter no parsnips!
All that is changing. UNISON has met with Senior Management to plan ahead for the introduction of Band 6. Of course the level of funding for our Service by Commissioners is vital in all of this and nothing is certain, but, if we together, can’t make the argument for Band 6 then we are all failing in our duty to staff. All staff.
I believe that Senior Management are serious and sincere in their willingness now to work with UNISON.
UNISON has also requested a ‘recruitment and retention’ payment (Annex J of Agenda for Change national agreement). This is to help in a transitional way. The recent recommendations made by the Pay Review Body (PRB) also supports our actions in this regard.
Let me be absolutely clear also on this important point: although we have banged on about Band 6 for Paramedics, it is not all about Paramedics!
It has always been UNISON’s view that all staff within the LAS play their part in delivering patient care. All staff! We all work for the London Ambulance Service and we all could not do our job if other people were not doing theirs. We are like a Human Pyramid! It only stays up if everyone holds onto, and supports, everyone else!
The labels of ‘Frontline’ and ‘Support Staff’ are false labels. It is a matter of semantics. We are all frontline.
Band 6 for Paramedics hold the key however. That key will unlock a long awaited review of other Bands within LAS.
A national Ambulance campaign will be launched at UNISON Health Conference in Brighton with an emergency motion. The campaign is called ‘Keep Your Promise To Ambulance Staff’!
It is twelve months since the Secretary of State made an offer to ambulance staff to get us back to work following strike action over pay in 2014/15.
LAS UNISON members played a magnificent part in the two 4 hour strikes with over 30 hugely attended picket lines across London. It was because of that solidarity that ambulance staff got an additional offer within the settlement terms.
The offer included looking at recruitment and retention issues: looking at a 50-50 cost sharing provision to allow ambulance staff to take their pension up to three years early and to explore particular challenges arising from extending the Normal Pension Age.
UNISON has been proactive with these issues in trying to get agreement but to no avail. It is time to organise, campaign and ballot. In February 2016 UNISON National Ambulance Occupational Group agreed the strategy for this campaign. This includes an escalation to industrial action should the negotiations not deliver for our members.
Now that 12 months has passed and we are no further forward, it is time to consult our members on taking industrial action to get the government to listen.
Information about the campaign is being distributed now and more will be sent out in the next week or two.
LAS UNISON is fully behind this campaign and we know that our members will be fully behind us. Let’s get prepared to stand together!
Finally, a personal note. Thank you to all those that sent me good wishes when I was recently taken ill. I saw the best of the NHS when I was at my worst. I am proud of my Union and proud of our Service. But they are not just cold organisations. They are made up of people who care. When that care is given unconditionally, and so willingly, it is a humbling experience. Enough said. Thank you.
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We are stronger together. We are all Frontline.