Pay row brews between GMB and South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust

A UNION is fighting plans which it claims will reduce pay for ambulance staff by £5,000.

The GMB said salary reductions would come from changes to unsocial hours payments for South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust (SECAmb) staff.

But the trust’s bosses said a new computer system meant it could now see how many unsocial hours staff were working.

Previously the payments were based on the number of unsocial hours staff were expected to work.

GMB regional organiser Rob Macey said: “GMB members feel they are being treated appallingly by SECAMB, who appear hell bent on making these cuts in order to achieve their Foundation Trust Status.

“GMB consider that paramedics, technicians and other ambulance workers provide a vitally important service to the public and they should be paid properly for doing so.

“Morale is now at an all time low and it is a very real fear that patient safety could be put in jeopardy.”

The union said the cut was the equivalent of losing 25 per cent of front line staff.

The GMB said directors of the trust had explained the alternatives were reduce salaries or up to 30 redundanices.

South East MEP Peter Skinner said: “There will be no doubt that these cuts will have a devastating effect on individual workers, but this could also threaten the future quality of ambulance services across the South East.“

The trust needs to save £40m over the next five years, whilst protecting front line services.

In 2004 the NHS introduced new terms and conditions for all staff, except doctors, known as Agenda for Change.

Under this directive staff who worked more than 21 unsocial hours per week on average were entitled to 25 per cent unsocial hours payment.

From April 2011 only staff who have worked more than 21 unsocial hours per week on average will be paid the 25 per cent allowance.

A SECAmb NHS Trust spokesperson said: “Currently the majority of the trust’s front line staff are paid the full 25 per cent unsocial hours premium, regardless of whether or not they have worked more than 21 unsocial hours per week on average.

“This is because when Agenda for Change was first introduced it was not possible to accurately calculate the amount of unsocial hours worked and calculations were based on the rota pattern the member of staff was expected to work rather than the hours they actually worked.

“However, the introduction of new rota software now means that the trust can accurately measure what hours each member of staff has worked ensuring that all front line staff are treated equally and a fair payment system can be introduced – one where people are paid for the work they undertake.”