Paramedics accept average 25pc pay rise over four years from NSW government, to avoid mass walkout

  • Published December 13, 2023
  • Industries

ABC News, 13 December 2023

New South Wales paramedics have accepted an average 25 per cent pay increase over four years, heading off a mass walkout of staff that would have "put lives at risk".

One thousand paramedics joined an online union meeting on Wednesday morning to hear details of their new pay rates, which the NSW government said was a record pay increase totalling half-a-billion dollars over four years.

A spokesman for Health Minister Ryan Park said over 5,000 paramedics would receive a pay bump between 11 and 29 per cent over four years, depending on their current salary.

The Health Services Union (HSU) headed negotiations and said the 11 per cent increase would include trainees and second-year graduates only, while most other paramedics would receive between 19.5 and 29.3 per cent more pay.

Under the new deal, paramedics with six years of experience will go from a yearly salary of $79,737 to $103,361 over four years, while critical care paramedic salaries will jump from $98,391 to $127,261 in that time.

Paramedic officer and member of the Ambulance Division of the HSU Tess Oxley said the increase now placed her colleagues in line with the rest of the country.

"I get to say that I'm proud to be a paramedic again in NSW again today," she said.

"We have been the lowest paid, the highest injured for a very long time. We can now do what we signed up to do."

HSU secretary Gerard Hayes held back tears during the announcement.

"The reality is, this will go a long way to keep people in NSW," Mr Hayes said.

"Nobody believed this could happen ... We did push, and we did push hard.

"This has been really hard, it's been really draining, but at the end of the day the people in the back of that ambulance either live or die."

The HSU said a third of the state's 6,000 paramedics successfully forced the government's hand by refusing to renew their professional registration, rendering them unable to legally work past the end of the year.

Premier Chris Minns said on Monday the result of a registration boycott would be the "collapse" of the triple-0 system on January 1.

"That will put lives at risk," he said.

Mr Park confirmed about 60 per cent of paramedics had now completed their professional registration, with the hopes it will reach 100 per cent by the evening.

"I think we owe each other a beer," Mr Park said.

"It's been tough ... this has been a challenge for me for many many weeks now. I think I'll probably sleep a bit better tonight."

The HSU said pay rates were driving hundreds of paramedics to other states, with a union survey of 1,200 paramedics finding less than 5 per cent of the workforce was not actively considering leaving.

The government offered a 4 per cent rise to all public sector workers earlier this year, which the HSU rejected.

A new offer of an average 19.6 per cent increase was also knocked back last week, with the union and the government at odds over exactly how much was being offered.

The matter was being heard in the Industrial Relations Commission but was later settled in a flurry of late-night and early-morning meetings this week.

It brings to an end months of tension between the Minns government and the HSU.

In November, Mr Hayes praised Mr Park for his part in negotiations but accused Mr Minns and Treasurer Daniel Moohkey of working in the "shadows" to block the pay rise.

"This is all on them," he said.

In a sign relations were improving, Mr Minns met with Mr Hayes on Monday evening in an attempt to resolve the dispute before Christmas.

The pay rises will be phased in from January 1 until July 2026.