As many of you already know, a few months ago the ambulance service introduced a new rest break scheme which resulted in many arguments between crews and control staff. The crews, who had been happily giving themselves unofficial breaks at hospital between calls for years, were suddenly forced to have 30 minute unpaid breaks at their base station. Should they miss their break, they either got to go home early or got a £10 payment. Well, you can guess what happened — all the crews did their best to avoid getting their break by taking a drive around town until another call came in or similar. Management started putting more pressure on us control staff to make sure crews didn’t miss their break, and things got generally heated as the crews felt control were trying to cheat them out of their missed break payments out of spite and give them breaks they didn’t want.
But now the rest break system has come round to bite Control on the bum, because we too are being moved to a new system. At the moment, we get one half-hour unpaid meal break per 12 hour shift, plus a 15-20 minute paid VDU break every hour or two, which I think is equivalent to what the crews do at hospital. (A VDU break is something the law says you have to have if, like us, you are staring at computer screens all day long.) Under the new system, we have the unpaid 30 minute break and one 15 minute paid break. We will no longer get VDU breaks but be expected to stay in the room doing work that doesn’t involve a computer. There isn’t much of that so I expect someone is going to have to invent some. It means we are going to end up working solidly for at least four hours at a time without so much as a cup of tea/toilet/fag/chance to wind down. Needless to say, we’re not too happy about it. But I don’t expect any sympathy from the crews!