A war of words could lead to industrial action by Midland paramedics over an ambulance service's perceived attempt to exclude a union from a new recognition agreement.
Following the reconfiguration of ambulance trusts, the new West Midlands Ambulance Service has stated the Association of Paramedics and Ambulance Personnel will not be recognised across the wider patch.
As early as July 31, 2006, in a letter to a senior APAP official, trust chief executive Anthony Marsh stated that under "guidance from NHS Employers" only TUC affiliated unions should be recognised.
He added: "I cannot guarantee that any historical arrangement or practice will automatically be continued."
Under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) legislation any existing arrangements must be honoured. This protects APAP's recognition in Birmingham and the Black Country, and Shropshire, union bosses claim their exclusion from WMAS's joint consultative committee and NHS Staff Council means they have no say on issues like pay and conditions.
Last night Geoff Winnard, head of the NHS Employers' non-medical pay unit refuted that any guidance over union recognition had been issued.
He said: "That's rubbish, we've not issued any such guidance. What any ambulance trust does is a local matter, we are not at the centre of these union arrangements.
"We've not been in any discussions with local NHS organisations over this issue. It would not be appropriate for NHS Employers to say who gets local recognition."
A string of meetings between various unions –including TUC-affiliated Unison, Transport and General Workers' Union, and the GMB – and Mr Marsh have been held since last July.
According to Unison's regional website, a decision to derecognise APAP was taken in December.
A new trade union recognition agreement is due to be ratified over the next few months. Mark Weatherhead, APAP's general secretary, feels the union is "being pushed out by others from within the trade union movement."
He also alleged Unison, the largest health sector union, had put forward a national recommendation for the NHS to only recognise two TUC-affiliated unions. North West Ambulance Service terminated its recognition agreement with APAP last week, stating that "existing recognition agreements are no longer fit for purpose."
Mr Weatherhead said: "This is causing ripples across the NHS as there are quite a few TUC-affiliated bodies, which means people are going to have to choose.
"APAP is not affiliated to the TUC though, which does call into question how ambulance service personnel will be represented.
"I wrote to Mr Marsh to raise these concerns about three weeks ago, but he's not replied or even acknowledged the letter."
Ray Lloyd, the union's regional officer, added that derecognition could "be the beginning of the end" for APAP.
"We will be making a legal challenge, but when I told WMAS I got the impression that it will go ahead regardless of any opposition," he added.
"Ultimately this could result in industrial action if they force our hand. The knock-on effect of that could be our members leave to join another recognised union which could put the local branch in jeopardy."
Last night Mr Marsh denied there were any moves to derecognise APAP. He said: "The NHS Staff Council, which APAP does not sit on, raised the issue of a new recognition agreement last year.
"I don't think it's creating a 'closed shop'."