Paramedics will consider a pay offer after a protracted wage battle threatens to remove more than 1900 of them from the workforce on New Year’s Day.
NSW paramedics are seeking clarity on a wage offer put forward by the NSW government in what could end a tense and protracted pay dispute that could have removed 1900 paramedics from the workforce from New Year’s Day.
On Friday, delegates from the Health Service Union (HSU) and Unions NSW secretary Mark Morrey met with bureaucrats from the health ministry and treasury in the hope of securing a deal.
HSU secretary Gerard Hayes said the union received an offer from the government on Thursday night in the form of a total renumeration package; however, he wanted further assurances that the base rate of pay was comparable with what paramedics were getting in Queensland.
Mr Hayes said the HSU was prepared to present an offer to members on Friday depending on Friday’s meeting.
“We are prepared to put in an offer to our members today. The problem we had last night is I couldn’t understand what they were saying,” he said.
“The paramedics behind me do not want to leave NSW (but) they cannot afford to live in NSW.
“I want to be very clear. The paramedics in every regional and metropolitan station do not want to leave but they can’t afford to stay.”
Throughout the pay dispute, the HSU says it has been seeking a 20 per cent pay rise; however, the government says the union’s wage demands have increased to 25 to 45 per cent depending on the award category – figures it says are untenable for the state’s bottom line.
The potential resolution comes as paramedics across the state have boycotted renewing their annual registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), which was due on November 30. This means they will be unable to rostered on or be paid by NSW Health after the grace period lapses at the end of the month.
Last week, NSW Health wrote to paramedics holding out on renewing their resignation and urged them to reconsider.
The letter stated that without AHPRA registration, it would be “illegal for an employer to pay an employee in respect of time spent engaging in industrial action”.
“The industrial campaign presents a genuine risk to health and safety across the state. As health professionals, paramedics demonstrate day in, day out their commitment to the health and safety of the community,” the letter read.
However, the HSU says members will “continue to turn up to work ready for duty only to be turned away by the Minns government on the basis that they want to continue paying NSW the lowest rates in Australia”.
Last Friday, after the union rejected private arbitration, NSW Health Minister Ryan Park expressed fears over how the planned protest action could affect NSW residents on one of the busiest nights of the year.
While Mr Park has vowed to increase the pay of paramedics, he said the planned action would “cripple triple-0 services”.
“This industrial action that is threatened to take place on New Year’s Eve would cripple triple-0 and no paramedic, no union or no government would be able to explain that to the people of NSW,” he said.
NSW Premier Chris Minns said the government was working towards achieving a “negotiated outcome” as soon as possible and acknowledged the “retention and recruitment crisis” facing frontline workers.
“We need to make sure that this industrial action doesn’t spill into having unintended consequences where people who are very sick or could potentially die can’t have access to a paramedic or an ambulance to get there,” he said.
“Stepping up this form of industrial action will mean triple-0 can’t operate and I’ve got major fears for the people in NSW if that went ahead.”