‘Paramedics will shut down triple 0’: Boycott to go ahead as pay negotiations stall

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NSW’s triple zero system will “collapse” on New Year’s Eve, the health minister has warned, with up to 2000 paramedics upholding their threat not to renew their professional registrations, as pay negotiations with the state government continued to stall on Friday.

The Health Services Union met Health Minister Ryan Park and Industrial Relations Minister Sophie Cotsis on Friday morning in a bid to stop the industrial action that has seen a growing number of paramedics refuse to re-register with the professional regulator.

NSW Ambulance union delegates, and HSU representatives held another meeting with Health Minister Ryan Park and Industrial Relations Minister Sophie Cotsis on Friday.

Without registration, paramedics are legally unable to attend triple zero calls, and while renewals were due by November 30, there is a grace period before they are removed from the register on January 1.

HSU secretary Gerard Hayes said that while it was “a good, robust meeting”, there was no resolution and the industrial relations action would continue, with paramedics seeking a meeting with Premier Chris Minns and Treasurer Daniel Mookhey next Friday.

“We are deeply disappointed and paramedics feel betrayed, the reality is they are going to leave and go to another state, or they won’t re-register,” he told the Herald.

“The paramedics supported the government before the election and promises were made, the government can’t blame our people for this, they were led down a garden path.”

Paramedics are asking for a 20 per cent rise on top of the 4 per cent for two years on offer, which would bring them into line with their Queensland counterparts.

The union has consistently argued that 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. The boycott is 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 asking for would be in addition to the $3500 flat increase negotiated by the union in July, which gave low-paid staff such as hospital cleaners an 8 per cent pay bump.

Health Minister Ryan Park said the state government would continue to seek a resolution but warned the industrial action could have dire consequences for the state.

“This will be industrial action that will shut down triple zero,” Park said.

“We cannot collapse triple zero at midnight New Year’s Eve. We can’t have that because I don’t know what the NSW Government or paramedics would say to the people of NSW.”

Shadow health minister Matt Kean described the negotiation breakdown as a “health crisis.”

“Chris Minns’ bungling has slashed our paramedics’ workforce by 2000 people, and it’s a health crisis of their own making,” he said.

“They looked paramedics in the eye before the election and promised huge pay increases which they never had any intention of delivering, it’s concerning, and it’s shameful.”

The meeting followed revelations by this masthead that one in 12 NSW Ambulance employees has or has had a Work Cover claim for a psychological injury in the last two years, with paramedics telling the Herald of their “guilt” of not being able to save lives as a result of “an overburdened health system” making them sick.

Friday’s meeting followed failed discussions between the union and state government on Monday, with Acting Health Secretary Deborah Wilcox writing to Hayes in the aftermath to propose the parties engage industrial relations expert Pete Kite SC to “resolve this matter by determining the appropriate remuneration of paramedics and terms of a new award”.

Wilcox said NSW Health would also look to commission Mercer “to complete a rapid analysis to assist the arbitrator in reaching his determination of remuneration rates.” The arbitration, Wilcox said, would be contingent on “calling off and not resuming all ongoing industrial action including the non-registration campaign for the duration of the arbitration”.

But Hayes said the HSU could not commit to a “lucky dip” arbitration with an “uncertain outcome”, and that the union had refused to sign.

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