Members of the GMB Scotland union working for the Scottish Ambulance Service and in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board gave their support for action on Tuesday. It comes after a month-long ballot of the union's 8,000 members across the NHS and associated services amid an ongoing pay dispute between staff unions and the Scottish Government. The GMB union announced that 89% of its members in the ambulance service backed strike action, along with 98% of members from the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board, 97% in Lanarkshire, 94% in Forth Valley and 88% in Lothian.
Meanwhile, physiotherapy staff from NHS Scotland have also voted to take strike action in their first-ever ballot on pay. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) announced on Tuesday that 79% of its members had backed industrial action on a turnout of 63%. The CSP is expected to run an online consultation based on the new offer from the Scottish Government of a flat pay uplift of £2,205 - backdated to April - which arose shortly before the ballot closed.
It comes after more than 88% of midwives and maternity support workers from the Royal College of Midwives previously voted to strike last week. The Royal College of Nursing is also currently balloting its members over strike action.
GMB Scotland organiser Karen Leonard said: "This a direct response from our members to the Government that more must be done to properly value NHS workers and the services they deliver - not just to confront the cost-of-living crisis this winter, but also to tackle the understaffing crisis in our frontline services that's left staff utterly exhausted and increasingly angry. The understaffing crisis, in particular, has been understood for years and left unchallenged, only for Covid-19 to expose and exacerbate the chronic shortfalls in staffing levels, and no one should be in any doubt the only way we can recruit and retain the people needed to kick-start a recovery is to value staff better."
Alex MacKenzie, chair of council at the CSP and a clinician in the NHS, said: "These results are a clear reflection of the anger and disillusionment felt by our members working in the NHS in Scotland. We are working under extreme pressure, caused in no small part by a workforce crisis that threatens to be exacerbated by a pay offer so far below inflation."
She added that workers felt the move was essentially a last resort:
She said: "That this was our first-ever ballot on pay demonstrates how reluctantly we pursue this path but we feel we have no choice in the face of an offer that will cause such damage to living standards and our ability to recruit and retain staff.
"This was a vote to protect the quality of care the NHS can offer to patients and we strongly urge the Scottish Government to return to the table with a fair offer for all."