NSW paramedics and transport service workers plan 24-hour strike

ABC, 16 May 2023

Patients discharged from hospital in New South Wales are set to be without government transport home on Thursday as the health union increases pressure over wages.

Paramedics and transport service workers are planning to take industrial action for 24 hours.

From 6am on Thursday, they will refuse to take patients home or to their aged care facility in ambulances or transport service vehicles. 

People will still be taken to hospital in an emergency, and patients going home from dialysis or for end-of-life care will be exempt from the action.

The state's Health Services Union secretary, Gerard Hayes, is accusing Chris Minns's government of being too slow to scrap the public sector wage cap and negotiate a pay rise.

"We don't enjoy doing this, we don't want to be doing this," Mr Hayes said.

"But we are not chumps and we are not going to sit back and let the government promise to deliver outcomes to working people and then prioritise issues that aren't real."

The union boss has taken issue with the government last week introducing legislation to parliament to insert Sydney Water into the state's constitution. 

The move to better protect Sydney Water from privatisation came ahead of movement on the wage commitment.

"If the premier's view is that it's more important to prioritise legislation to prevent privatisation of a facility that is not going to be privatised, then I think he's missing the boat," Mr Hayes said.

Mr Minns's promise to scrap the public sector wage cap, which currently limits pay rises at 3 per cent, is widely regarded as a major reason Labor won the March election.

There are 70 industrial agreements covering 200,000 public sector workers that are due to expire at the end of next month.

The premier says he spoke to Mr Hayes last Friday and has a team within his government that is negotiating pay deals with a number of unions.

"We believe that we are in the process of developing an offer, if you like, to public sector workers in New South Wales," he said.

But Mr Minns cannot give a time frame for the offer or when the cap will be lifted. 

"It's a very complicated industrial instrument," he said.

The wage cap is controlled through regulation which could be changed by an executive order from the government. 

But the premier is planning to overhaul the industrial process, which involves repealing and changing legislation in parliament.

Mr Hayes wants the cap lifted by July 1, and for the government to reform the system.

The Health Services Union started smaller action a few weeks ago, with members walking off the job for snap stop-work meetings at regional hospitals.

It estimates Thursday's state-wide action will impact about a thousand patients, and there are plans for more.

"It will get more severe and the premier needs to understand that," Mr Hayes said.