999 staff ballotted for strikes in row over meal breaks and shift changes

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HUNDREDS of ambulance staff in Yorkshire are being balloted for strike action over changes in shift patterns.

The row is the latest between bosses at Yorkshire Ambulance Service and the union Unite, which was derecognised a year ago.

The union claims paramedics could go more than 10 hours without a meal break and staff be forced to work 12-hour shifts.

But ambulance chiefs have branded the claims “misleading and factually incorrect”.

Unite said it was balloting its 450 members over changes which begin next month.

It said the shift patterns would lead to an overtired workforce, affecting patient safety. Officials claimed meal breaks would be “at the whim of managers”. They want a protected meal break of 30 minutes after six hours.

Unite has been in a long-running battle with managers over concerns relating to patient safety which led to two days of strike action last year.

Regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “Our members, who are doing their best for the Yorkshire public in very difficult circumstances, have been under sustained attack by the trust’s hardline management for more than a year.

“The latest erosion in their employment conditions is the demand to work elongated shifts which could mean them working more than 10 hours on the trot before managers deign to give them a meal break.”

Ambulance service chief executive David Whiting said changes to staff rotas and rest breaks had been agreed with staff and Unison.

“Staff welfare is a key priority for the trust and whilst we have to ensure our staff are available to respond to emergencies we balance this with adequate rest breaks for our staff,” he said.

“The new rotas will improve the allocation of rest breaks and the rest break period will be a minimum of 30 minutes during a 10-hour shift and 45 minutes during a 12-hour shift.”