LONDON (Reuters) – More than 10,000 ambulance workers across England and Wales will strike later this month over pay and conditions, the GMB union said on Tuesday, adding to widespread industrial action across Britain’s health service over the Christmas period.
The union said its members, including paramedics, emergency care assistants and call handlers, at nine regional ambulance services would walk out on Dec. 21 and 28.
Workers across a wide range of sectors are currently taking, or planning to take, industrial action in Britain as inflation outstrips wage increases, and with the economy likely already in a recession.
“The last thing they want to do is take strike action, but the government has left them with no choice,” GMB’s National Secretary Rachel Harrison said.
Two other trade unions, Unison and Unite, have also said that ambulance workers who are their members would strike on Dec. 21 over a pay dispute.
British health minister Steve Barclay said people should continue using online emergency services for urgent advice and to call the emergency number in life-threatening situations.
“Our priority is to ensure emergency services continue to operate for those who need it and limit disruption,” Barclay said in a statement.
Britain’s state-run National Health Service is already grappling with planned industrial action by thousands of nurses after the government refused to meet demands for pay hikes.
Chairman of the governing Conservative Party Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday the government was looking at bringing in the military to help keep public services running if key workers took strike action.
(Reporting by Farouq Suleiman; editing by William James, William Maclean)
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