NSW paramedics to stop work to seek pay promise before state election

  • Published February 17, 2023

News.com.au, 17 February 2023

“Humiliated” NSW paramedics have promised to unleash “five weeks of fury” in a bid to seek improved pay in the lead-up to the March 25 state election.

The Health Services Union (HSU) highlighted a campaign of “high visibility civil disobedience and work bans” that will begin on Friday.

As part of the stopwork action, paramedics will chalk their ambulance vans with slogans, hold protests outside ministers offices and not respond to P5 codes. This refers to staff making health recommendations to patients when they don’t require hospital transport.

“We are process workers at the moment and paid accordingly,” said one HSU delegate.

NSW paramedics are the lowest paid in Australia, with one member claiming staff in Queensland are paid up to $23,000 more in base wage for similar roles.

According to the HSU, a paramedic with six years of experience will take home a weekly wage of $1456 in NSW, while their ACT counterparts are paid $1702.

In a stopwork meeting on Friday morning, North Coast paramedic Luke O’Hearn said it was “humiliating” to wear the paramedic uniform and pleaded with NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet to engage with staff.

“It’s now at a stage where we are being humiliated by the Premiere with his disdain for what we do, who we are and what we provide to the community,” she said.

“We have our colleagues in Queensland earning significantly more than what we do for the same job.”

Another staff member who had just finished a 13-hour night shift said he was “feeling very bitter” about the pay gap, a feeling held by his fellow colleagues.

“I feel like walking out,” he added.

HSU secretary Gerard Hayes told more than 250 members that the union had been in contact with NSW Health; however, he warned change “doesn’t come without a price”.

Sydney paramedics will also be holding CPR lessons at Martin Place in the CBD from 8am.

“If we’re not going to be paid properly, a lot of us are going to leave and people aren’t going to want to come into NSW to replace us, which means there’s not going to be enough ambulances to response to those critical emergencies,” a HSU delegate said.

“We think the public might need to learn how to do a bit of effective CPR.”

While Labor has not commented on any changes to pay, Opposition Leader Chris Minns promised on Thursday to establish a special commission of inquiry into the state’s $33bn health funding if Labor comes into government.

“I think most fair-minded people and most taxpayers would say, we’d love the NSW government to be looking in a detailed way as to how the biggest line item in the NSW budget is being spent,” said Mr Minns.

The commitment was triggered by a HSU report in which Mr Hayes likened health spending to a “$33bn cash cow”.

The report titled Reform Critical - A Fragmented Health System at Breaking Point found patient complaints had increased by a whopping 40 per cent since the start of the pandemic and 144 per cent since 2011-12.

Ten per cent of NSW patients seeking ambulances had also been forced to wait more than two hours between July to September 2022.