The lowest paid paramedics in the country have placed an indefinite ban on working at major sporting events in an attempt to secure more competitive salaries.
Major NSW sporting events are at risk of not being attended by on-call paramedics, in their latest move to secure more competitive rates of pay. On Tuesday, paramedics represented by the Health Services Union (HSU) said they’d begin instituting an indefinite ban on events like regional and metro horse racing.
This means organisers will have to call triple-0 if they require medical assistance.
While most sporting events, like the NRL and the AFL, employ privately contracted paramedics, the indefinite lockout will affect regional and metro horse racing events.However, the HSU confirmed the Matilda’s round of 16 match on Monday will not be affected.
The latest round of industrial action comes as NSW paramedics, who are the lowest paid in Australia, fight for better rates of pay, while increasing their skill set which allows them to perform diagnostic procedures and administer medicine.
The latest action comes as public sector workers have been offered a 4 per cent wage increase, under the government’s policy to bust the wages cap.
HSU NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said while paramedics haven’t rejected the wage increase, they will not “deal with that issue” until they receive a salary that recognises their professional skill set.
NSW paramedics are the lowest paid in the country, and are paid about $250 less than ambos in ACT, where workers earn the most.
Mr Hayes said it was leading to “an attraction and retention crisis,” with paramedics going interstate for better-paid work.
“There is a strong moral argument to lift the pay of paramedics but there’s an even more pressing practical one. The drift of paramedics interstate will become a torrent unless we fix this problem,” Mr Hayes said.
“Paramedics are more than a line item on a spreadsheet. They are an indispensable part of the health system. It’s time they are paid what they are worth.”
Both NSW unions that look after paramedics have started industrial action over pay disagreements.
The Australian Paramedics Association has launched industrial action until August 2, over the “insultingly low” pay rise. Union members will refuse to electronically record patient billing details, or KPIs, and have also refused to attend special events if the hours result in a station going beyond their minimum staffing levels.
On Tuesday, NSW Premier Chris Minns said the government was working to continue negotiating with public sector unions and frontline workers.
“We have to sit down around the table (with public sector unions and frontline workers) and when those negotiations take place, (we) have an eye on what’s affordable and what’s achievable,” he said.
“We’re prepared to sit down and talk with unions about multi-year deals (and) ensuring that there is fairness in relation to wages and conditions, but we have to take everything in consideration.”
Opposition health spokesman Matt Kean said it was a mess of the government’s own creation.
“We don’t support the disruptive strike action but we do support Chris Minns fixing the mess he’s created,” Mr Kean said.
“This is because Chris Minns looked paramedics directly in the eyes before the election and promised them huge pay increases and now he can’t deliver them.”