HSU cements historic pay deal for NSW paramedics after threat to cripple triple-0

  • Published December 13, 2023
  • Industries

Daily Telegraph, 13 December 2023

Paramedics have cemented a historic pay deal, avoiding a potential meltdown of NSW’s emergency services from January 1 after a bitter fight with the government.

After days of tense and tumultuous negotiations, the NSW government has cemented a historic pay deal for paramedics, preventing a potential breakdown of the state’s triple-0 services on January 1.

Urgent negotiations between the government and the Health Services Union (HSU) were held in the tense backdrop of about 2000 paramedics boycotting obligations to renew their professional registrations, which would have barred them from attending call-outs from New Year’s Day.

Under a $500 million deal, paramedics will get between an 11 to 29 per cent increase to wages over four years, depending on their grade from January 1. On average, paramedic pay will increase by 25 per cent.

The base salary of a typical six-year paramedic will increase from $79,737 to $88,082 from January 1, and will increase to $103,361 by July 2026.

For a critical care paramedic, their base pay will go from $98,390 to $127,261, while a specialist year three paramedic will skyrocket from $90,711 to $117,328.

NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said the pay benefits would be accelerated in the first two years of the four-year pay deal, and took into recognition the increased skillset of paramedics.

“These paramedics will now be able to do a whole of different roles because what we’ve created is a professional structure that provides incentives for people to be able to climb that ladder of clinical improvement,” he said.

“Under these changes, we’re going to see more and more paramedics, preventing people going to hospital because they’ll be able to do some of that life saving treatment … and either prevent a person from going to hospital, or reduce the length of stay that that person’s in hospital.”

Mr Hayes, who has ferociously attacked the government in order to secure the pay increase, was noticeably emotional during the announcement, and took a brief pause before he thanked HSU members.

“We could not be here to look after the community of NSW without the dedication of our members,” he said.

“The reality is, this will go a long way to keep people in NSW … It’s going a long way for younger paramedics to be in the field to treat people to keep them out of hospital.

“It will decrease pressure on the hospital system and will encourage more people to be attracted and be retained by NSW Health.”

Wednesday’s wage deal also served as a major test of Labor’s new industrial relations processes which encourages negotiations between the government and union bodies, said Treasurer Daniel Mookhey.

“The system provides for the capacity to assess people’s claims,” he said.

Mr Mookhey said the government would assess claims from other bodies seeking increased wages on an independent basis.

“Every essential worker will have a very respectful conversation with us but that doesn’t mean we’re going to agree, and it doesn’t mean we’re going to agree on day one,” he said.

“(But) we’ll work with them respectfully and responsibly through the system, much like we have with the paramedics.”

Crisis talks have been ongoing with the health minister, treasury and health ministry for weeks before a turning point came after a conversations between Mr Hayes and NSW Premier Chris Minns on Monday evening.

Mr Park said the premier played a “fundamental” role, and credited the involvement of the treasurer and Mr Hayes.

“That type of partnership at the top of the union movement and the top of the government is helpful when you are trying to deal with a very complex award system and you’re trying to reach an agreement,” said Mr Park.

NSW paramedic Tess Oxley said paramedics look a “massive leap” by withholding their registration but said their efforts helped secure pay that paramedics deserved.

“Today I get to say I’m proud to be a paramedic in NSW,” she said.

“We can be paramedics for the community of NSW. They know that when they need us and they call, we’ll be turning up and we will be proud and happy to be doing our job again.”