The two paramedics who Premier Chris Minns singled out as the faces of his public sector wages campaign have delivered a blistering TikTok attack on him, saying they feel used and betrayed.
Chris Branson, an intensive care paramedic with 24 years’ experience, and fellow paramedic Lani Farrugia, were invited by Minns to sit in the public gallery of NSW Parliament for his first question time as opposition leader in June 2021.
Minns peppered then premier Gladys Berejiklian with questions about the Coalition’s policy to freeze the pay for frontline workers, and later held a press conference with Branson and Farrugai.
However, more than two years later, the pair have slammed Minns’ refusal to give paramedics what they say is a reasonable pay offer and this week featured in two TikTok posts for the Health Services Union.
The two posts began with the messages including “Hey Chris Minns, remember us” and “when you’re one of the paramedics Chris Minns used in his political stunt”.
“Personally, I feel that I have been completely used,” Branson, a union delegate, told the Herald.
“Chris Minns told us that the centre of his election campaign would be around paramedic pay and conditions, he made it clear that it would be one of his lead issues in the campaign, and so we were happy to sit in the gallery to represent paramedics.”
Farrugia, also a union delegate, said she appreciated that “politicians say what they need to, to get what they want and need”, but they had to be held accountable.
“Personally, after being in the gallery at the first session with Chris Minns as the opposition leader, speaking the way he did about paramedics and all they did, sometimes far and beyond due to their giving natures, I feel hurt and annoyed at his response after getting elected premier of NSW,” Farrugia said.
Speaking in parliament on June 8, 2021, Minns said: “During COVID paramedics stood up for us. They put their own health on the line to protect NSW. I have brought two of them along today.
“Lani is a paramedic from Narromine who worked the night shift last night and often works eight days in a row. Chris is an intensive care paramedic from Merimbula.
“I thank Lani and Chris. Our paramedics are the lowest paid in Australia. Will the minister sit down with them and offer them fair pay, so they know they are valued and respected?”
Branson, a Health Services Union delegate for the past decade, said he had been fighting to secure better pay and conditions and to ensure the best ambulance service existed in NSW.
However, Branson said the one-year pay offer from the Minns government – 4 per cent plus 0.5 per cent superannuation at a cost to the NSW budget of $618 million – was not close to what paramedics expected or deserved.
The government’s offer – a stop-gap measure while it determines how to deliver its election promise to scrap the public sector wages cap – would apply to a swathe of public sector workers whose agreements are due to expire at the end of this month, including the Health Services Union (HSU).
However, Branson said the offer fell well short for paramedics.
“That doesn’t even account for inflation, and doesn’t account for the increasing workload and clinical responsibilities that paramedics have assumed for at least a decade,” Branson said.
Minns’ office was contacted for comment.
Health Minister Ryan Park responded to the post, saying “I remain in constant engagement with paramedics and their representatives”.
“Not only do I respect the right of those frontline workers and their unions to push us hard and advocate for their workforce, as health minister I will actively listen with open ears and an open mind,” he said.
“These are complex matters, but this government is determined to deliver the best and fairest result for our paramedics, not just over the next 12 months, but in the long term.”