A series of fresh strikes by ambulance workers has been announced by Unite in an escalation of the bitter dispute over pay and staffing.
The union said its members across England, Wales and Northern Ireland will stage 10 further strikes over the coming weeks, warning that additional dates could be announced soon.
Unite’s ambulance workers are already set to walk out next Monday as the dispute with the government remains deadlocked.
The Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “Rather than act to protect the NHS and negotiate an end to the dispute, the government has disgracefully chosen to demonise ambulance workers.
“Ministers are deliberately misleading the public about the life and limb cover and who is to blame for excessive deaths. Our members faithfully provide life and limb cover on strike days and it’s not the unions who are not providing minimum service levels.
“It’s this government’s disastrous handling of the NHS that has brought it to breaking point, and as crisis piles on crisis, the prime minister is seen to be washing his hands of the dispute. What a disgrace. What an abdication of leadership.”
The newly announced strike action will involve Unite’s members in the North West, North East, East Midlands, West Midlands, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Unite said that as with previous strikes, its representatives will be working at regional level to agree derogations to ensure that emergency “life and limb” cover will be in place during the action.
Other derogations will ensure that patients needing lifesaving treatment, such as renal care and cancer treatment, will be transported to their appointments, said the union.
Unite official Onay Kasab said: “The resolution to this dispute is in the government’s hands. This dispute will only be resolved when it enters into proper negotiations about the current pay dispute.
“The government’s constant attempts to kick the can down the road and its talk about one-off payments, or slightly increased pay awards in the future, is simply not good enough to resolve this dispute.”
Unite gave details of when its members employed by different ambulance trusts would be striking.
West Midlands: 6 and 17 February and 6 and 20 March. North East: 6 and 20 February and 6 and 20 March. East Midlands: 6 and 20 February and 6 and 20 March. Wales: 6 and 20 February and 6 and 20 March. North West: 6 and 22 February and 6 March and March 20. Northern Ireland: 26 January and 16, 17, 23 and 24 February.
Members of the Royal College of Nursing and ambulance workers in the GMB are striking on 6 February, while the GMB has also called strikes on 20 February as well as 6 and 20 March.