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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 November 2005, 17:19 GMT
New twist in ambulance breaks row
Workers want to be paid if interrupted during meal breaks
A union representing ambulance staff has rejected a deal to end a dispute over meal breaks, weeks after they recommended members accept it.

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) staff were offered a pay rise of up to 1,800 to be on call during meal-times.

A vote by union members on the rise was delayed due to ballot paper problems.

But Unison's regional officer said the offer has now been rejected without a vote after he learned ambulance workers elsewhere were offered a better deal.

That deal involved a shorter working week with meal breaks, but no pay rise.

Unison's North East branch secretary Joel Byers wants to put the same deal to his members.

I am at a loss as to what more the trust can do to bring this episode to an end
Simon Featherstone, NEAS

He said: "Two-and-a-half years ago, I asked for what Hereford and Worcestershire are running now.

"I was told categorically that you could not attain this. Now we find there is a trust doing it - what's going on? My members want to know what's going on."

Move forward

Simon Featherstone, chief executive of the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), said: "I am at a loss as to what more the trust can do to bring this episode to an end.

"I am particularly concerned that this decision appears to have been made without consultation of union members.

"We are looking for guidance and advice from the Department of Health and Unison nationally on how to determine a way forward."

Since June, paramedics have received unpaid and undisturbed meal breaks.

Unison said that as a result there had been a number of incidents where crews nearest an emergency had not been contacted.

In the meantime, the Ambulance Trust said it would pay workers 20 every time they were disturbed during breaks.


06 Oct 05 |  England

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