NSW government agrees to historic $500 million wages deal for paramedics

  • Published December 13, 2023
  • Industries

Sydney Morning Herald, 13 December 2023

The NSW government has announced a historic $500 million wages deal for paramedics after weeks of intense negotiations, preventing a New Year’s Day shutdown by the emergency care workers.

Health Minister Ryan Park, Treasurer Daniel Mookhey and Health Services Union secretary Gerard Hayes said on Wednesday afternoon the salary increases would range between 11 and 29 per cent, while the agreement would also create a new pay structure for paramedics.

The four-year agreement would result in an average increase of 25.5 per cent for paramedics, and would be partially funded from the Essential Services Fund (a $3.6 billion fund established in September to support long-term growth in pay) and savings from the health portfolio, the government said.

The deal is a significant jump on the previous 12 to 24 per cent increase offer made by the government last week. It will see the salary of sixth-year paramedics — a cohort with the highest, 29.6 per cent uplift – jump from just under $80,000 to $88,000 on January 1 and increasing to $103,361 by July 2026.

Park said the multifaceted wages offer was necessary to ensure paramedics were “recognised and retained”, and insisted the profession offered a “special and unique” case for the record deal.

“This is a once in a generation change to the way in which our paramedics are remunerated and reflects the expertise and the professionalism of these clinical emergency experts,” he said.

The government had warned that the triple zero system could collapse on New Year’s Day without an end to the standoff. Park conceded there had been some “challenges” and “argy-bargy” as the two parties came to an agreement, but said that was the “nature of negotiations”.

Almost 2000 of 6000 NSW paramedics had threatened to withhold their professional registrations during the stalled pay negotiations, which would have prevented them to legally attend triple zero calls from January 1.

The HSU has repeatedly argued that paramedics’ pay should reflect the increasingly complex clinical and public health tasks they are now asked to perform, including diagnosing patients and administering medicines that prevent heart attack sufferers from deteriorating.

The union said that more than 600 paramedics had taken up positions interstate in the past six months, such were the pay conditions in NSW, and has warned more would follow.

Hayes paid tribute to his members, as he touched on the life-changing significance of the record pay deal.

“The reality is this will go a long way to keeping people in NSW,” he said.

Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said paramedics had won a “hard fought” victory, which underscored the government’s decision to abolish the Coalition’s wages cap, allowing for the wages deal to be delivered.

“There is no doubt that our paramedics have been able to provide multiple layers of evidence which suggests how much their profession has changed,” he said.

The record wages increase for paramedics comes just three months after the state’s 95,000 teachers secured a deal that ensured many would become the best paid in the country.

The Coalition accused the government of breaking an election promise to fund public sector wage increases entirely through productivity savings rather than cuts to the state’s budget.

The breakthrough comes 24 hours after Park foreshadowed a deal was imminent, saying “good progress” had been made after negotiations went deep into the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Hayes had urged the decision-makers in the NSW government to organise a meeting in which a deal could be thrashed out, warning an offer needed to be resolved by Friday to ensure the requisite administrative work could be processed in time.

An initial wages deal proposed by the government was rejected by the HSU as being insufficient, with paramedics seeking a pay boost to bring NSW in line with the nation-leading wages available in Queensland.