London, Jan 11 (EFE).- Around 20,000 ambulance workers went on strike in England and Wales Wednesday to demand better pay and conditions.
The National Health Service (NHS) has urged members of the public only to call emergency services in the case of life-threatening illness due to the staff shortages.
The fresh round of strikes, the latest in a raft of industrial action to hit the United Kingdom amid a cost of living crisis, was organized by members of the Unison and GMB unions and comes a day after Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party government presented a draft law to enforce “basic” services in sectors including health.
Ambulance workers in England and Wales will on Wednesday provide services to category 1 cases, which include cardiac and respiratory arrests that present an immediate threat to life.
The NHS, the UK’s free health care service, said: “Today, some services may be affected due to strike action. You should continue to call 999 if you need life-saving care. Ambulance services will be prioritizing the most clinically urgent cases. If it is not life-threatening, you may have to wait longer than usual.”
Ambulance workers are planning to go on strike again on January 23 in a bid to secure a pay rise from the government as inflation hits 10.7% in the UK.
In Scotland, unions accepted a salary increase of 7.5%.
The UK is in the grips of a period of strike action dubbed by the press as a new “winter of discontent,” with industrial action taking place in the railway and transport sector, schools and healthcare.
Sunak’s government has unveiled plans to introduce anti-strike legislation that would enforce minimum services in health, firefighting and railway sectors, among others, although have yet to publish the policy’s details.
Union bosses have questioned the legality of such legislation.EFE