06/02/2002

Ambulance staff representatives meet with SDLP

Representatives from the health union Unison and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service have met with the SDLP at Stormont to discuss recent attacks on paramedics.

Lily Kerr from Unison and Liam McIvor from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service met with the SDLP vice chair of the Stormont Health Committee Tommy Gallagher and assembly member for north Belfast Alban Maginness on Wednesday evening to discuss ways to tackle growing attacks on ambulance staff.

Speaking before the meeting union official Lily Kerr said she pleased politicians were taking an interest. She said: "We hope the SDLP will come out and give us their full support. We want them to join us in or campaign for zero tolerance and to ensure this attitude is adopted across the province.

"The SDLP can be drivers for change within their own constituencies and the Assembly. Politicians can make a difference and they can spread our message that these sort of attacks must stop."

Ambulance staff in Northern Ireland have stepped up their campaign following the latest attack on an ambulance driver who was taking a seriously ill pensioner to hospital via the Crumlin Road on Monday night. A brick smashed the windscreen and the woman driver had to fight to keep the vehicle on the road.

Unison branch Commander of the NI Ambulance Service Paddy Milligan said some form of industrial action would be seriously considered. He said: "Personally I believe there is an onus on the Minister for Health to respond to our call. The Assembly must back us and something positive must be done."

Last month ambulance crew from across the province met in Derry to discuss the increasing attacks on paramedics. Following the January 12 meeting trade union officials said they would be delaying a ballot on strike action for two months.

Unison said they would be taking stock of the situation before they called a meeting, pencilled in for the end of February. (AMcE)

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