As previously reported on Liverpool Indymedia, the dispute began when the employers double-crossed workers over a pay review they said would be 'binding on all parties'. When the review gave them the 'wrong' answer, the employers used a range of spoiling tactics in an attempt to enforce lower rates for ambulance technicians.
Union leaders representing around 200 ambulance technicians and 50 high dependency unit staff also lodged a formal grievance with the North West Ambulance Service Trust.
They claimed a statement last week by the trust's chief executive, John Burnside, that he may consider sacking anyone who continued to strike after eight weeks was unlawful. In a letter to Mr Burnside, Ambulance Service Union (ASU) general secretary Steve Rice accused the trust of using threats to discourage workers from union activity.
Mr Rice said the union would be willing to consider suspending further strike days if the trust agreed to bring in an independent arbiter to the increasingly bitter dispute over pay. But he also announced a further three days of walk-outs should that not happen, starting from next Friday, August 18, at 7pm, and ending at 7pm on Monday 21.
Mr Rice said workers should by law be granted a 12-week period of protection in any dispute.
He also complained about letters sent by the trust to trainee paramedics, which he said contained "express and implied" threats suggesting their careers may not progress.
The ASU fears technicians will be placed in Band 4, on a salary of £19,000 each, a cut for some as they currently earn anywhere between £19,000 and £21,070.
The union wants to see them placed at the bottom of Band 5, on £21,118, with a full 25% un-social hours bonus. If they are placed on Band 4, their overall rise would effectively work out at a total 14% including the un-social hours bonus, for those who qualify for the full amount.
It is the first time ambulance staff have been on strike in Merseyside for more than 20 years.
Ambulance workers don't take strike action lightly, knowing how important their jobs are to the welfare of the general public. However, it is precisely because they serve us all so well that we should support them against their employers' dodgy dealings.
Burnside's 'patient care' claim is a sham. If the staff were sacked, patients would suffer terribly. The solution is not to abandon the strike but to extend it, in solidarity with other branches of health care facing cuts because of the government's privatisation agenda. The more people go on strike, the more the bosses have to listen. Burnside's remarks are a sign of his desperation.