A group of Echuca paramedics have joined their fellow Victorian counterparts in taking part in protected industrial action to fight for better pay.By Monique Preston
Echuca’s paramedics are among the worst paid in Australia.
From Friday, the group joined their fellow Victorian paramedics in protected industrial action which now allows them to speak out about poor pay, among other issues.
Echuca paramedic Ian Wines said an experienced paramedic in Victoria earned $56,000 a year.
Anything extra on that is for working public holidays, weekends and the overtime on shifts often more than 14 hours long, he said.
However, if they worked in South Australia, Western Australia or the ACT, they would earn just under $25,000 more each year.
And if they worked in Tasmania, NSW or Queensland, they would receive $8000 more a year than they do in Victoria.
Mr Wines said much of the reason Victorian paramedics were so far behind in wages than those in other states was because they were not recognised as medical professionals in Victoria.
‘‘Our training involves a university degree on a par with registered nurses and they’re recognised as professionals and we aren’t,’’ he said.
Retired Echuca ambulance officer John Afford said he supported his former colleagues in their fight for better pay, saying it was something they had been fighting for for several years now.
Mr Afford said ambulance officers had brought up the issue of their lack of professional status in the past two enterprise bargaining agreements, yet the government had refused to come to the party each time.
Mr Afford said paramedics’ pay was poor.
He said when his son was in his third year electrical apprenticeship, he was earning just as much as Mr Afford was.
‘‘It was frustrating,’’ Mr Afford said.
‘‘The lack of support from management leads to low morale.
‘‘They don’t seem to stand up and say ‘Our guys are qualified and they need this’.’’
Under the proposed enterprise bargaining agreement under negotiation, the State Government is offering a minimum wage increase of 2.5 per cent per year for the three years of the agreement.
An alternate pay rise of 5 per cent is also on the table.
To receive either of these offers, paramedics would have to give up annual leave and pay loadings.
‘‘The 5 per cent is not a fair dinkum offer,’’ Mr Wines said.
‘‘After the unions analysed their pay offer, it looks like we’ll be better off by $1 a week.’’
‘‘This has happened over the last two EBs,’’ Mr Afford said.
‘‘Once you do the figures, paramedics are coming in behind CPI even.’’
Instead, paramedics are seeking a 10 per cent per year pay rise over the next three years, to make up for what has essentially been pay rises of less than CPI over the past two agreements.
Mr Afford said paramedics deserved more respect from the government for the work they did.
‘‘When I was a paramedic, we knew we got respect from the public, but it was not enough,’’ he said.
Mr Afford said night shifts were at least 14 hours — which sometimes crept up to 15 or 16 hours, while day shifts were 10 hours long.
The paramedics plan to continue the industrial action indefinitely, however Mr Wines said ambulance services would not be affected.
‘‘There are no plans at this stage to take action that will affect the public,’’ he said.
‘‘Instead, we’re bringing issues to the public’s notice.’’
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