Labour Research (July 2016)

Health & Safety Matters

Excessive working hours prompt threat of strike

Public services union UNISON has told the East of England Ambulance Service that it will ballot frontline ambulance staff for possible strike action over managers’ failure to tackle the problem of excessive working hours and lack of sufficient breaks, following a “year of broken promises”. 

The union says that shifts are meant to be no longer than 12 hours, but regularly overrun so that staff can find themselves working 13- to 18-hour days or nights. 

It reported that earlier this year one crew was forced to work a 20.5-hour shift. And while staff are entitled to a 45-minute meal break during their shift, they regularly end up with only 30 minutes.

“Ambulance staff carry out life-saving work in their communities and deserve better treatment,” said UNISON branch secretary Fraer Stevenson. 

“Theirs is already a stressful job, being made almost unbearable by the excessive working hours staff regularly find themselves working. 

“No wonder so many have already left the service, and that many more say they want to quit.”

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