Paramedics in Yorkshire could walk out on strike for the first time in years if a long-standing pay dispute is not resolved, unions have warned.
Ballot papers are going out to over 600 members of the trade union Unison this week.
It comes at a turbulent time for Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS), which is looking for several hundred new staff to fill gaps caused by a national shortage and faces year-on-year increases in demand for 999 response.
“We are hoping the trust comes up with a resolution - if not they may have to take the consequences,” said Unison regional officer Ray Gray.
Mr Gray said the issue went back 12 years to 2004 and was over a pay grade difference which could be worth around £6,000.
Most paramedics are at the top of band 5 at £28,180 but a change to the top of band 6, which the union says would reflect their skills and training more accurately, would see their salaries rise sharply to £34,876.
Mr Gray said action could go up to and include a strike.
“My gut reaction is that it will probably be a strike rather than anything else,” he said.
“I think the paramedics have been extremely patient, to say they are doing it with a heavy heart is an understatement.
“They can’t see any other way of progressing this after so long.”
A YAS spokeswoman said: “We were disappointed that the unions have gone down this line because we had productive talks on Friday and put a fair proposal to them.”
Yesterday Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart said he was “frustrated and extremely concerned” over worsening response times in rural parts of the East Riding.
They hit a low of just 24.4 per cent of emergency calls being answered within the eight-minute target last September, against a national target of 75 per cent. On response times YAS said they continued to work hard to make further improvements to response times in the East Riding. Last week the trust announced a new recruitment drive for paramedics and emergency care assistants in Hull and the East Riding.