The GMB has suspended a strike among non-emergency ambulance staff after bosses lifted a threat to sack staff over a pay dispute, the union said today (Friday 2 September).
The staff were due to strike on Monday (5 September) to try to persuade contractor Coperforma and sub-contractor Docklands Medical Services to honour a promise over back-pay.
The ambulance staff lost the money when the previous sub-contractor VM Langfords went into administration earlier this year.
The two companies said that they would make good the lost pay even though it wasn’t protected in law under “transfer” rules.
But when ambulance staff – still missing their pay – threatened to strike, the two contractors threatened to sack the staff and take them on again on worse terms.
This afternoon the union said: “The GMB have today suspended industrial action on Monday 5 September over ongoing issues around Docklands and Coperforma failures to honour outstanding back pay and associated issues from dismissal and re-engagement threats.
“The GMB have agreed to suspend their industrial action and demo planned for Monday 5 September as a result of Docklands Medical Services suspending and lifting the immediate threat to commence dismissing and re-engaging staff on lesser terms and conditions in light of an agreed meeting planned for Tuesday 6 September.”
GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer said: “With talks now planned for next Tuesday we hope that the expected frank exchange to allow Docklands to explain how they find themselves in this position after such a short time of being involved with Coperforma and the Sussex PTS (patient transport service) contract and for the GMB to reiterate that the worst way to resolve both the ongoing pay issues and contract concerns is to simply dismiss and re-engage staff who have shown commitment to Docklands and the service throughout a very trying period.
Brink of collapse
“We are hearing that Coperforma are totally responsible for pushing Docklands Medical Services to the brink of collapse and Tuesday’s meeting will allow the company the chance to evidence us the problems and their causes which have resulted in the company claiming that their future is in serious doubt – and that’s certainly going to need an open and clear discussion on how that can be best tackled for the benefit of all concerned.
“Over the next few days the GMB will be pressing the combined CCGs (clinical commissioning groups) and especially the lead High Weald and Lewes Haven CCG, who have over the last few days offered their support over the plight of Docklands staff pay issues by reconfirming to us that after the collapse of VM Langfords that an integral part of any new contractor taking up the provision was that they adhered to all staff current terms and conditions, pension provision and NHS pay scales.
“It’s apparent that Coperforma’s advice to their contractor and severe cut to the level of provision earmarked to the company, along with payments meant to cover staffing costs being late on a monthly basis, has brought about this potential collapse of yet another PTS contractor in such a short space of time.
“Our members though are once again innocent victims in this and it’s not acceptable.
“The GMB will not stand by while companies like Coperforma make money off the back of staff like those at Docklands.
“I need to make it clear to any company who look to increase profit by diminishing the pay and terms and conditions of our membership – no way, not without a fight!”