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Sunday, 31 August 2014

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Sick-pay cut’s a body blow says Cumbrian paramedic dad fighting cancer

A paramedic battling cancer has described cuts to his sick pay as a “body blow”.

The 41-year-old father-of-five from north Carlisle has been off work for more than six months after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

But he has been left reeling after ambulance staff were told their sick pay would be slashed by up to 25 per cent.

It comes after the NHS Staff Council agreed that workers would only receive basic pay during sickness absence and any other allowances, including extra pay for working unsocial hours, would be scrapped.

NHS bosses insist the changes will bring ambulance staff pay in line with nurses and other health workers.

The paramedic, who wants to remain anonymous, said: “I’ve been off work for over six months and my sick pay will drop to less than half what it was – this is a hit of about £300 a month.

“For it to suddenly drop by that much when you are used to structuring your life around the amount you get you ask yourself how will you survive?

“You still get the same bills and the mortgage to pay so to get the unsocial hours taken off as well is hard to take.

“It’s a bit of a body blow – I’ve been so unwell the past seven or eight months and then to be faced with struggling financially is hard and my whole family’s lives will have to be restructured.”

Members of health unions GMB, Unison and Unite have rejected the changes and say ambulance workers are more prone to illness because of the physicality of their jobs and increasing pressure on them.

Carlisle-based paramedic Mike Oliver, Cumbria area convener for the North West Ambulance Service branch of Unison, said any ambulance staff off on sick from September 1 face having their pay deducted.

He also revealed members will be balloted in the next few weeks with industrial action potentially taking place over the Christmas period.

“We will be making legal challenges for any member who has unsocial hours payments deducted and that will be a lot because sickness is high at the moment,” Mr Oliver said.

“Strike action will be the last resort as our members are proud of their jobs and won’t want to see no cover at all over Christmas.”

Another ambulance worker from Cumbria who has also been affected by the pay deductions is backing any potential industrial action.

He said: “In our job we work with people who are seriously ill so we’re more likely to get sickness and diarrhoea. It’ll have a knock on effect because staff members won’t want to take time off sick so there’s more chance of it spreading further.

“I’m fully supportive of any industrial action because our terms and conditions are being torn apart.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: We are disappointed by the unions’ position – this agreement was supported by the majority of NHS staff and employers, who recognised previous arrangements were overly-generous and out-of-date.”

DHemming@cngroup.co.uk

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