UPDATED: UK union suspends ambulance staff strike scheduled on Dec. 28

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LONDON, Dec 23 (Reuters) – Planned industrial action by ambulance workers represented by the GMB union on Dec. 28 has been suspended, the union said on Friday.

“People across the country have been wonderful in backing us and we care so much about them too. That’s why we are suspending the proposed GMB industrial action on the 28th December,” Rachel GMB National Secretary Harrison said.

Thousands of British ambulance workers will stage two further strikes on Jan. 11 and 23 in an escalating dispute over pay and staffing, the Unison trade union said, after a similar walkout by staff on Wednesday.

While Wednesday’s strike, which also involved workers affiliated to two other trade unions, lasted 12 hours, the two Unison strikes next month will last 24 hours each, Unison said in a statement.

The walkouts will involve all ambulance employees as opposed to just emergency response crews, although many will be exempted from strike action under emergency cover plans, said the union, which represents the majority of ambulance workers in Britain.

“It’s only through talks that this dispute will end,” Unison General Secretary Christina McAnea said. “No health workers want to go out on strike again in the new year.”

A van carrying a UNISON poster passes Waterloo Ambulance Station in London, Britain, 21 December 2022. Paramedics, ambulance technicians and call handlers from nine NHS hospital trusts in Britain and Wales have walked out in a dispute over pay and staffing. The paramedics strike follows a second day of nurses strikes. EPA-EFE/MARK THOMAS

The strikes come as an already pressured health system faces further strain this winter, with nurses also going on strike in a separate pay dispute.

British health minister Steve Barclay said meeting unions’ pay demands would mean taking money away from frontline services.

“Strikes are in no one’s best interest least of all patients and I urge unions to reconsider further strike action before walkouts have a worse impact on patients,” he said in a statement.

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