Ambos deck vehicles in war paint

EDITORIAL:  Time to solve ambo dispute

WODONGA paramedics locked in a pay dispute have a message for the state government — and they’re taking it on the road.

Ambulances with political messages daubed on the back have been spotted around Wodonga in past weeks, effectively making them moving signboards in the union’s pay rise campaign.

North East paramedics and their colleagues statewide are seeking a 30 per cent pay rise over three years, bringing them in line with their interstate counterparts.

Ambulance Victoria said it was bound by the state government’s public sector wage limit of 2.5 per cent annually plus productivity gains.

Wodonga paramedic Mike Fuery said paramedics across the state — including at Wangaratta and Yarrawonga — had started “war-chalking” to let their feelings be known.

“There has been no progress on discussions at the moment and people are upset by that,” he said.

“All I can say is people are determined to get the message across.”

But Ambulance Victoria regional manager for Hume Garry Cook said staff had been asked to remove messages as it was not considered protected industrial action.

“Any writing on the front and rear windscreens may impact on a paramedic’s ability to see out of the vehicle while driving, which is a serious safety concern along with the potential for a negative impact on community confidence in Ambulance Victoria,” Mr Cook said.

Asked if paramedics would face penalties, he said: “Ambulance Victoria is conscious of the environment created during industrial campaigns and balanced judgement will be applied in each case”.

Mr Fuery said paramedics had been told to stop but they hadn’t as “it is protected”.

“If it’s deemed to be unprotected then they (Ambulance Victoria) would have taken us back to Fair Work in an instant,” he said.

“But that hasn’t happened yet.”

Messages have included direct digs at Premier Denis Napthine, and the recent politicians’ pay rise: “2.5 increase for saving lives vs 15 per cent for Denis and his mates — $1 a week, what a joke!”

Mr Fuery said the politicians’ 15 per cent pay rise had incensed paramedics.

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