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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 August, 2004, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Ruling over ambulance meal breaks
Unions representing ambulance staff in the north-east of England are claiming victory in a row over meal breaks.

The dispute arose after it emerged North East Ambulance Service staff would not be paid during meal breaks, even though they were on stand-by.

In June, ambulance workers voted in favour of industrial action although it was put on hold in July with both sides agreeing to go to arbitration.

On Tuesday an independent arbitrator ruled in the staff's favour.

Unison branch secretary Ray McDermott said: "I am absolutely elated, not just for the union, but for the people of the North East who are going to be provided with an ambulance service for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Seek clarification

"We never did it for the pay, we did it for the cover for the people of the North East."

The row followed months of negotiation on a new national NHS Pay Structure - Agenda for Change - which is being piloted around the country.

North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust chief executive Simon Featherstone said it had been a "finely-balanced" argument.

He said: "I am glad the arbitrator has now made a decision. I look forward to moving forward."

In a statement, the Trust said: "The Trust and Unison have received the outcome of the arbitration process and the arbitrator has decided that given the local circumstances, the Trust's present position on meal breaks amounts to a 'requirement' for staff to work their meal breaks.

"We are now seeking clarification on whether the meal break period is part of the standard working week or is it outside of the standard working week which will determine the payment staff would receive."

Ambulance dispute comes to an end
23 Jul 04  |  England
Action looms for ambulance staff
07 Jun 04  |  England

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