Paramedics dispute to go to tribunal as registration lapse looms

  • Published December 9, 2023
  • Industries

Sydney Morning Herald, 9 December 2023

A pay dispute between the state government and paramedics will be heard by the industrial tribunal on Monday afternoon, as the health minister expresses serious concerns about impacts on services.

Almost 2000 of the state’s 5000 paramedics are withholding their registrations amid failed pay negotiations between the government and the Health Services Union. The paramedics will be legally unable to attend triple zero calls from January 1 if they do not apply for renewal.

Health Minister Ryan Park said he and senior NSW Health bureaucrats had briefed cabinet on Saturday morning, telling them the matter would come before the Industrial Relations Commission at 2pm on Monday.

“We informed cabinet that we are very, very concerned with that threat; we are very concerned about the impact that would have on triple zero services,” he told reporters on Saturday afternoon.

Park had previously suggested he would recall NSW parliament during its summer break to pass legislation allowing unregistered paramedics to work. Asked on Saturday if unregistered paramedics could work beyond January 1, Park stressed that paramedics needed to be registered by the national health practitioner regulation agency (AHPRA) to work.

January 1 is typically the busiest day of the year for the state’s ambulance service, with more than 5000 calls and a higher number of overnight incidents following New Year’s Eve celebrations. This year, paramedics received 1007 calls between midnight and 4am alone.

A mediation session broke down on Friday after the Health Services Union walked out on an 11th-hour pay offer Park claimed would give an average ambulance officer a 19 per cent pay rise.

However, union boss Gerard Hayes accused the government of lying about the details of the offer and betraying ambulance officers who helped them win election in March.

The union disputes the figures because they refer to take-home pay, which includes penalties for overtime and allowances. However, a government spokesperson said they were based on four hours’ overtime a week, less than the average worked by a paramedic.

Park said the state government remained ready to engage with the union over the weekend to see the matter resolved. He maintained the deal would see NSW paramedics “paid the same amount as [their] Queensland counterparts”.

“We believe we put forward a strong offer and one that should have at least allowed paramedics to stay at the table to discuss any nuances,” he said.