THREE senior Wodonga paramedics yesterday made an emotional plea for community support in their ongoing pay dispute.
They said the community faced a decimation of experienced paramedics if the state government failed to boost wages and protect conditions.
Scott Burns, Mike Fuery and Paul Bellman — with 80 years’ experience between them — were able to speak out because their dispute is now a protected industrial action.
They pointed the finger of blame directly at the state government for rigidly sticking to its public servants’ industrial relations policy.
“They’ve tried to implement a wages policy across Victoria that has been a dramatic failure,” Mr Bellman said.
“It failed with the police, who had to take extreme industrial action, it failed with the nurses, who too had to take extreme industrial action, and it’s now failing the people they count on most in the paramedics of Victoria.”
Mr Bellman said a lot of people gave no thought to what a paramedic did “until they need us”.
“And then everyone’s a critic and everyone expects the highest level of care and service regardless of what’s going on,” he said.
Ambulance Victoria said it was bound by the government’s public-sector wage limit of 2.5 per cent a year plus productivity gains.
Paramedics want a pay rise of 30 per cent over three years to bring them in line with colleagues interstate.
Hume region paramedics will don red T-shirts with a “Red Alert” slogan as part of their campaign over coming weeks.
They will try to explain their case to as many people in the community as possible.
Mr Fuery said officers were dismayed at the government’s insistence that the pay rise on the table was linked to productivity savings.
“Paramedics have said, ‘OK, we’ve done all these things in the last three years, we’ve got all these demonstrable and measurable productivity savings to do with increased workload, increased level of service, increased provision of data to allow health planning’,” he said.
“There’s a whole bunch of efficiencies we have demonstrated.
“But, when it gets down to the discussions, that is all discarded because, in the government’s definition, that is not productivity.”
But Ambulance Victoria Hume region manager Garry Cook insisted the 2.5 per cent offer was not reliant on productivity savings, though these would still form a part of ongoing negotiations.
“We’re committed to getting back to the table and working through and continuing to negotiate within the context of the government’s offer,” he said.
Mr Burns said the pay rise offered “was not a pay rise at the end of the day”.
“They want to take our holidays, our RDOs and our 17.5 per cent loading to make up the 2.5 per cent,” Scott Burns said
But Mr Cook said this option — whereby staff might create a productivity saving by, for example, sacrificing one of their 10 weeks of annual leave — had been rejected.