Industrial action by North East hazard team paramedics

The North East Ambulance Service has been experiencing issues with its telephone lines.
The North East Ambulance Service has been experiencing issues with its telephone lines.
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North East paramedics trained to work in hazardous conditions are locked in a working in pay row with bosses.

The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) NHS Trust’s Hazardous Area Response Team (Hart) is a group of paramedics trained to go into the ‘hot zone’ of hazardous situations, potentially saving more lives during the early stages of a major incident.

Unison has tried to negotiate a resolution with the trust for over nine months. As a result of the trust’s intransigence, members of the Hart team have taken the difficult decision that industrial action is the only option left.

Helen Coomer

The South Tyneside-based HART unit covers from the Scottish border to North Yorkshire and Cumbrian borders and provides the initial NHS response to mass casualty situations, infectious disease outbreaks; chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear alerts, firearms or lethal weapons incidents, building collapse and water-related call-outs.

Regional Unison organiser Helen Coomer said the team was currently in dispute short of strike, which mainly involved working to rule, but was prepared to step up action if no agreement was reached: “These highly trained and dedicated members of staff are often working in difficult and dangerous situations treating and saving the lives of the general public.

“Since January the Hart team have been trying to get the trust to pay them the rate for the job as determined by a job evaluation scheme.

“NEAS Trust has refused to pay them in accordance with their grade. The trust is belittling the contribution made by this hard-working and dedicated group of staff.

“Unison has tried to negotiate a resolution with the trust for over nine months. As a result of the trust’s intransigence, members of the Hart team have taken the difficult decision that industrial action is the only option left.

“The trust is urged to enter into meaningful negotiations with our members and give them their rightful pay.”

A spokesman for North East Ambulance Service said: “We received a letter from Unison in October informing us of the outcome of a ballot for industrial action among the 30 paramedics who work in our Hazardous Area Response Team. This action involves not working overtime shifts, not being deployed to standby duties and not participating in unofficial relief cover.

“We have continued to meet with Unison and these talks are currently on-going. We hope that we will be able to reach an agreement soon.

“Hart paramedics are trained to enter hazardous areas which previously only the fire service or police would approach. Hart paramedics in NEAS earn the same as their counter-parts in almost every other ambulance service across the UK.

“However, there is no national job profile for their role, although additional skills and training are identified each year for HART staff across the country.”