Fifty Shades Of Pay

by Eric Roberts - Branch secretary LAS Unison

Like a lot of people at the moment,  I have fallen out of love with the London Ambulance Service.  These last two years have been painful.

The recent Staff Survey results for the LAS read like divorce papers in a messy relationship break-up case.

A lot of time, energy and money has been wasted trying to force through ill-thought out changes that has only resulted in a) staff walking out the door and b) the rest of us losing heart and enthusiasm.

I think the Union had been lied to, misled and kept in the dark. Our concerns and warnings have been largely ignored, or, if not completely ignored, then pushed onto the 'back burner' to simmer away until the pan boiled dry.

The Union is still here. The previous Chief Executive is not.

Apart from one or two honourable exceptions in senior management and HR, I have no faith, or confidence in the leadership of our trust.

I believe they have been part of a deliberate conspiracy against UNISON and long-serving staff. When faith, love and confidence are gone, we are on a long road to nowhere.

I believe in partnership and collaboration, but it is a two way street. There have been a lot of road closures on that point over the last few years that need to be re-opened so that traffic can flow up and down again.

We want to work in partnership with senior managers who are not shocked to hear that UNISON wants something for staff out of any joint working.

We want to work in partnership with senior managers who do not use collaboration with us to solely boost up their CV before moving on.

We are a Trade Union. We care about, and support Public Services. We care about, and support the NHS. We care about, and support staff.

We want to get back to a place where we can once again care about, and support the London Ambulance Service. It is our Service. There is a lot wrong that needs to be put right.

People say that patients come first. I say that patients AND staff come first. Without properly trained, rewarded, inspired and motivated staff, patients will struggle to get the care and treatment they are entitled to expect from the capital city Ambulance Service.

And there's the rub!
I wrote to the previous Chief Executive on 10th November 2014 expressing UNISON's concerns regarding the Service and asking her 'to act, take the initiative, and force through radical changes to retain and reward staff'.

I wrote down what UNISON believed to be the way forward in what was called the 'London Package'.

This was:
  • All Paramedics should be in Band 6.
  • Re-think the role of the Senior Paramedic.
  • Secure the future of Technicians.
  • Make it easier, and affordable, for our own staff to study to become Paramedics.
  • Make it financially attractive for staff to stay with LAS.
  • Create a 'London Package' for all our staff to be a unique benefit working for LAS
The London Package is as much relevant now as it was in November 2014. In fact more so!

Of course all of this cannot happen overnight. Each of the six points need debate and exploration. We did not expect everything to be agreed by return of post, but, neither did we expect the letter to be treated in the way it was. All but ignored!

These six demands cover all staff who work in the London Ambulance Service. They still stand. Everyone who works within the LAS helps in some way to deliver patient care.

The most pressing issue, however, which needs resolving immediately, is the position of our Paramedics.

All Paramedics in London should be on Band 6 of Agenda for Change. The position that the Service is taking is becoming more untenable day by day.

We need an agreement on how to jointly take this forward before we reach the point of no return. This is political.

A neighbouring County Ambulance Trust is paying Paramedics at Band 6.
LAS - Band 5.

On the days of the industrial action over pay, clinical volunteers were sought from other London Health Trusts to work on ambulances. They had to be Band 6.
LAS - Band 5.

The Service is actively recruiting nurses at Band 6.

Because of the severe shortage of Paramedics the Service is recruiting 10,000 miles away in Australia!

We should be making it easier to become a Paramedic here. Made to measure - not off the peg.

I know a lot of this is out of the hands of the Service and, like the Union, they do not have a magic wand, but, you do not need magic, or a crystal ball, to see that if this is not sorted, and sorted soon, a lot more staff will disappear along with more faith, love and confidence!

I wrote at the end of my letter to the former Chief Executive 'Ann, together we can change the LAS. Our starting point is the London Package'.

I restate it now for our new and welcome Interim Chief Executive: Fionna, together we can change the LAS. Our starting point is the London Package.

Let's shred the divorce papers and start again!