Two further strike days involving South West Ambulance Service staff are to take place in the new year, says their union UNISON today. Ambulance workers belonging to UNISON are to take action over pay and staffing again in January. Staff will be called out on strike on Wednesday 11 and Monday 23 January 2023. UNISON […]
Patient safety is always the priority. The Trust has asked us to respond, from the picket line, for certain types of call which they are unable to cover.
We have agreed to do this for:
Category 1 calls
Category 2 calls in a public place or public gaze
HART responses to guidance
Major incident declared (not industrial action!)
Am I breaking my contract by taking strike action?
Almost all effective industrial action is a breach of your contract of employment.
However, UNISON will only ask you to strike after a lawful statutory ballot. The law protects workers from dismissal while taking part in lawful industrial action at any time within 12 weeks of the start of action. Depending on the circumstances, dismissal may also be unfair if it takes place later.
Are my pension contributions affected if I take strike action?
In some strikes, particularly short ones, employers may not withhold superannuation contributions – so taking in strike action has not generally affected pensionsm though this is a possibility.
If your employer decides to dock your pay for the day of action, the employers do not have to pay pension contributions during that period and you will not have paid your portion of contribution for that day.
The impact on your final pension would be extremely small but you might want to consider replacing the lost contribution.
It is possible, with your employer’s agreement, to pay a sum equal to the employee and employer contribution and receive full credit for the day’s absence and continue to have full cover.
Any member wishing to do this must inform their employer in writing before the absence takes place.
Are there rules and laws on picketing?
Picketing is a legal activity to peacefully persuade members not to go in to work.
Pickets should wear an armband indicating they are on duty. Placards and posters should be displayed stating “Official Picket.”
The law says that picketing should be carried out at or near an entrance or exit from a site at which the picket works.
When others who are not in dispute come into work or use these entrances or exits, pickets must not interfere with them.
Can UNISON provide financial support?
UNISON National Industrial Action Committee has agreed that members who lose pay due to the strike action will be able to access up to £50 for the first day of action.
Further guidance on how to make a claim will be made available shortly.
Do I have to strike if there is a vote for action?
As a member of a democratic union we would hope that you would participate in a strike if there is a vote for strike action.
You cannot be forced to do so, but it is part of belonging to a democratic union in which decisions are made collectively.
We recognise that taking strike action is very serious, which is why UNISON asks you and every other member to observe the strike, if called.
Every member who does not undermines our bargaining power and makes it harder for us to protect all our members.
I am a paramedic but on the day of the strike I will be working in EOC/remotely, what should I do?
On this occasion you have not been called to strike so will work as normal.
However, please note that you should not be asked to change your duties to cover striking crews. UNISON will be calling on EOC/remote working staff in the future.
I am an Operational Officer – what am I expected to do?
Operational Officer’s are covered by the call to strike so you can join the picket line too!
I am due to work overtime on the day of the strike what should I do?
You have a choice – you can hand back your overtime which should be without penalty or you can come to work and join the picket line,. Obviously, you will not be paid while you are striking.
I am facing redundancy. Won’t going on strike make it more likely I am made redundant?
Many members might in a similar position and will share your concerns.
But rermember: employees are protected from dismissal during the first 12 weeks of any lawful, balloted, official industrial action.
Any dismissal for taking part in industrial action in this 12-week period, regardless of how long the employee has worked, or their age, is automatically unfair unless a tribunal decides the dismissal was not to do with the industrial action.
Employers know this and, in the most part, are not about to risk breaking the law. But management may attempt to isolate – or indeed intimidate – individuals or small groups with the view to encouraging strike breaking.
There may be threats concerning your careers or of disciplinary action. If this does happen, make sure you report this to your UNSION branch officers in the first instance.
They will take this very seriously and act upon it.
Note that there are time limits for making a complaint – normally three months less one day – so let your branch know as soon as you receive a threat concerning your career or disciplinary action.
I’m in my first 12 months of employment – what are my rights?
Employees are protected from dismissal during the first 12 weeks of any lawful, balloted, official industrial action. Any dismissal for taking part in industrial action in the 12-week period, regardless of how long the employee has worked, or their age, is automatically unfair unless a tribunal decides the dismissal was not to do with the industrial action.
My employer is saying that a one-day strike would be seen as a break in service and that my continuity of service would be broken. Is this true?
No. Your continuous employment is treated as ‘postponed’ during a strike.
This means that the period you were on strike for will not count toward your continuous employment, but it does not break the continuity of your period of employment.
What if I am about to go on or come back from Maternity Leave?
A member who is due to commence maternity leave on the day of a strike is advised to contact the branch for further advice. A member who is on maternity leave while the strike takes place retains her right to maternity pay. They can also delay their return to work if it co-incides with a day of strike action.
What if I am on sick leave?
Workers who are absent on sick leave when a stoppage of work starts retain their right to statutory sick pay during the period of industrial action.
If an employee reports sick on the day the action starts, the employer can be expected to make their own judgment as to whether they should be regarded as on sick leave or on strike.
For the purposes of statutory sick pay payable in the eight weeks after a period of strike action, average earnings will reflect the lower earnings during the period leading up to the illness.
What if I am part time?
UNISON believes that any deduction of pay must be pro rata for part time staff. The deduction must be only for your contracted hours.
What if I am pregnant, in my last year of service or receiving state benefits?
It may be that some individuals in these categories of staff may be exempted if they will suffer longer-term financial loss. Speak to your branch to discuss your individual circumstances.
What if I have external work commitments, on the day of the strike?
If your commitments are part of your normal work for your employer, you should not attend them.
What if I take annual leave?
UNISON does not regard anyone who takes annual leave on strike days to be taking part in the strike action. Where strike action begins during a member’s annual leave, the employer can be expected to treat them as on leave and not on strike. Some employers are adopting a policy of refusing new requests for annual leave by workers covered by the strike notice during the period of industrial action. If you are in this situation, please refer to the branch for further advice.
If you can, we would like you to postpone your leave so that you can take part in any strike action.
What if my crewmate is not striking?
If you are on a station with a picket you should join it.
If not then advise control you are striking and contact UNISON to find your nearest picket line.
Non-members are welcome to join UNISON. Even on the day people can join (join.unison.org.uk) non-members are also entitled to strike but do not have the legal protection members receive from UNISON.
If your crewmate chooses not to strike that is, of course, up to them – it is up to SWAST what happens to them, they may be crewed up or driver only. That is out of our hands.
Why do I have to respond from the picket line to Cat 1’s that are obviously not Cat 1’s?
UNISON will have someone in the ICC who will review the calls the employer wants to give us.
We need to keep a record of any incident which we deem to have been inappropriate to pass to us and we will review this with SWAST after the action. This is important as it will inform our potential responses in further action; please ensure your rep knows.
Will I lose my job if I engage in industrial action?
If you engage in lawful industrial action and you are dismissed in circumstances where the reason or principal reason for your dismissal is that you took part in lawful industrial action, then your dismissal will be treated as automatically unfair if:
it is within 12 weeks of the action starting or
you stopped the action within 12 weeks or
your employer didn’t take reasonable procedural steps to resolve the issue.
Will I lose pay and if so how much?
Yes, we can expect employers to refuse to pay staff taking industrial action. The law makes it clear that employers can deduct pay when staff are on strike. However, where pay deductions are made these should at all times be reasonable.
If employers decide to deduct pay from those taking strike action, your branch will seek agreement at local level for deductions of no more than 1/7th of weekly income (ie 365th of annual income) for a single whole day of strike action. Also that deductions are pro rata’d for people who work part-time or term-time.
If you respond to a call for a Cat 1, Cat 2 in a public place or major incident from the picket line, SWAST will pay you for the time that you are on the call.
Will my incentive payments be affected by striking?
No, we have it writing from SWAST that you incentive payment will not be affected by exercising your legal right to take strike action.
Can I join action called by other unions?
UNISON has balloted our members separately to other trade union. UNISON members should not take part in any industrial action organised by other unions. If you refuse to work or cross picket lines when your colleagues from another union are taking action you may find yourself at risk of dismissal.
However UNISON members are free to support legal protests and rallies that take place outside your contracted hours of work.
My employer is asking me to cover for staff on strike, what do I do?
UNISON members should continue with their normal duties and responsibilities. UNISON members should not take on any additional responsibilities being given to them directly as a result of the industrial action unless it is in your contract to do so.
You should only be providing cover where you are contracted to do so, it is timetabled or part of your normal duties.
You should not be moved from the duties you would normally have carried out in order to cover work usually taken by colleagues on industrial action.
If you have any queries regarding the situation in their area, or about covering for staff, contact your local representative or branch office.