Paramedics threaten boycott over 20 per cent pay rise demands

  • Published November 14, 2023
  • Industries

Sydney Morning Herald, 14 November 2023

Paramedics in NSW are refusing to renew their registration until the state government gives them a 20 per cent pay boost in industrial action that would leave roughly a quarter of the state’s paramedics unable to work and ambulances critically short-staffed.

More than 1500 paramedics have pledged to boycott renewing their national registration, taking them out of the workforce from December 1, unless the government brings their pay in line with Queensland.

There are about 4000 paramedics in the ambulance division of the Health Services Union, and it expects more card-carrying members to join the industrial action in the coming weeks.

Secretary Gerard Hayes said hundreds of paramedics had resigned in the past six months and would “keep moving to Queensland” unless their pay was increased.

“We need to keep our paramedics in NSW,” he said. “The workforce is cratering. We need a decent offer, and we need it now.”

The union has consistently argued that paramedic pay should reflect the increasingly complex clinical and public health tasks they are now asked to perform, including diagnosing patients and administering medicines that prevent heart attack sufferers from deteriorating.

Alan Bradley, an HSU delegate and special operations paramedic from St Ives Ambulance Station, said he was tired of seeing his colleagues leave the service for other states and professions.

“They pay us as if all we do is cart patients around when the truth is we keep them alive, at great benefit to the taxpayer,” he said. “How on earth is it reasonable to pay us one-fifth less than people doing the same work in Queensland?”

Health Minister Ryan Park was contacted for comment.

A spokesman said the NSW government was “working through what professional recognition for NSW paramedics could look like, with appropriate remuneration and expanded capacity, skills and role”.

“We are committed to supporting our essential frontline workers and we’re working hard to recruit, retain and support our workforce,” the spokesman said. “We are continuing to engage with paramedics and their representatives in good faith, as we have always done.”

The looming boycott would be the latest attempt by the HSU to force a better pay deal since Labor came to government in March.

The 20 per cent pay rise the HSU is now asking for would be in addition to the $3500 flat increase negotiated by Hayes in July, which gave low-paid staff such as hospital cleaners an 8 per cent pay bump, while dietitians, psychologists and pharmacists took a pay cut in real terms.