LONDON, England: Thousands of UK ambulance workers, represented by three different trade unions, voted to go out on strike in December due to disputes over pay and conditions, further disrupting the country's health services.
The Unite and Unison trade unions also said their ambulance service members had backed walkouts, while the GMB union said more than 10,000 ambulance workers across England and Wales also voted to authorize a strike.
This winter, the UK's National Health Service (NHS), which has provided free healthcare services since 1948, is bracing for a wave of unprecedented industrial actions, with up to 100,000 nurses due to strike on 15th and 20th December.
"No one in the NHS takes strike action lightly. Today shows just how desperate they are," said GMB National Secretary Rachel Harrison, as quoted by Reuters.
This year, surging inflation in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine has caused a cost of living crisis in the UK.
The GMB said it would convene soon to decide on potential strike dates before Christmas.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a staffing crisis which has left thousands of vacancies, the NHS is dealing with record levels of patients on waiting lists for hospital treatment.
Accident and emergency departments are also under pressure, with ambulances often facing lengthy waits to transfer patients to hospitals.
The Unite union said its ambulance service members voted to strike, with strikes likely to begin before Christmas, while Unison said that the thousands of health workers it represents, including call handlers, ambulance technicians and paramedics, voted to strike and could take action in December.
In response, UK health and social care minister Steve Barclay said, "Our priority is keeping patients safe during any strikes, and the NHS has tried and tested plans to minimize disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate."