A strike in the NHS could put lives at risk and pile further pressure onto other emergency services, Cleveland’s police and crime commissioner has said.
Conservative Steve Turner labelled the prospect of industrial action “criminal”.
But he was criticised by Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald for his use of the word criminal with Labour MP’s Mr McDonald taking the opportunity to refer to the PCC’s previous conviction for handling stolen goods.
The MP posted on Twitter: “NHS staff standing up for themselves to demand a fair wage that they can live on is not a criminal act.
“Handling stolen goods is a criminal act.”
Unison is asking 350,000 NHS staff, including nurses, paramedics, porters and cleaners, to vote in favour of walking out in a dispute over pay.
Its general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Striking is the last thing dedicated health workers want to do.
“But with services in such a dire state and staff struggling to deliver for patients with fewer colleagues than ever, many feel like the end of the road has been reached.”
Other unions, including the Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives, GMB and Unite, have all started to, or are planning to, ballot members.
Emergency care will be protected during any industrial action taken by any of the unions.
The Unison ballot closes on November 25 in England and Wales.
Mr Turner told the BBC’s Politics North programme: “Strikes like this are criminal [because of] the pressure they put on other services.
“From a policing perspective, if there isn’t an ambulance or [people] can’t get hold of a healthcare professional while [nurses] are striking, they’re going to pick up the phone and ring a police officer.
“What I’m saying is you’re putting people’s lives at risk and you’re putting other people under pressure by taking this action.”
The PCC was previously subject to a number of complaints over his alleged conduct which were referred to the independent police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
But none of the complaints were substantiated with the IPCC taking no further action and Mr Turner hitting out at a politically-motivated “witch hunt” he said he had been subjected to.
A spokeswoman said he would be making no further comment on his NHS remarks after being contacted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
Mr Turner recently launched a newly-developed mobile phone app which allows members of the public to raise concerns about non-urgent issues in their local community in a bid to relieve some of the pressure on the Cleveland Police force and its control room.
It signposts people to other agencies if necessary, such as local councils, should their complaint be more appropriately dealt with elsewhere.