NSW paramedics threaten to 'pull the nuclear option' and boycott registrations over pay dispute with state government

  • Published November 14, 2023
  • Industries

ABC News, 14 November 2023

New South Wales paramedics are threatening to "pull the nuclear option" and boycott their professional registration over a pay dispute, a move which could take more than 1,500 ambulance officers off the road.

The Health Services Union NSW (HSU) said a growing number of paramedics had vowed not to re-register with the professional regulator by November 30, rendering them legally unable to attend triple-0 calls.

More than 1,500 paramedics have signed an online pledge to boycott their renewals, which are due on December 1. 

Paramedics who do not pay their registration would be given a month's grace period in which they can legally work before they are removed from the register on January 1.

In an online newsletter, the Ambulance Division of the HSU said the Minns government was breaking an election promise by failing to recognise members' increasing skills with a pay rise.

"This government is happy to accept all the benefits of each and every paramedic's professionalism while attempting to delay paying for it – if they can get away with it," the newsletter said.

"It's time to pull the nuclear option and boycott 2023 paramedic registration."

The union has so far refused a four per cent wage rise offer.

HSU NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said paramedics were asking for a 20 per cent rise on top of the four per cent offer for two years, to bring their pay in line with Queensland paramedics.

"This is playing catch-up," he said.

"Over the last 12 years, paramedics in NSW have fallen behind every other state."

Mr Hayes said paramedics must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (APHRA) to legally provide complex medical care in emergencies.

In a newsletter sent to union members, Mr Hayes says the state's paramedics had fallen behind other state's pay.

"They undertake some very invasive medical procedures and with that they're professionally registered and overseen by APHRA, and yet, their pay has not changed from being an ambulance officer," he said.

If paramedics make good on their threat, it would mean a severe shortage of available staff, according to the union.

Mr Hayes said there had been no meaningful negotiations with the state government about fulfilling a promise to improve paramedics pay.

"The situation is quite ridiculous," he said.

"You expect to attract and retain people and you're offering peanuts."

A task force, set up under the former Coalition government, is investigating what professional recognition paramedics should be awarded.

A NSW government spokesman said negotiations were continuing in good faith.

"We are working through what professional recognition for NSW paramedics could look like, with appropriate remuneration and expanded capacity, skills and role," the statement read.

"A significant amount of work is occurring regarding changes to the profession, clinical improvements, and integration of paramedicine into the broader health system."