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Government's ambos plan could see paramedics ditch careers

District ambulance officers are concerned over the Victorian Government's plans to enforce rural relieving.

IVY WISE August 25, 2014 3:04am

The Victorian Government’s plan to enforce rural relieving could force many ambulance officers, particularly those with young families, to quit according to Echuca paramedics.

Joanne Kerr, who has been a paramedic in Echuca for 22 years, would be one of them.

Mrs Kerr said the government wanted to compulsorily move rural paramedics across the state for up to four weeks at a time as one of the conditions in the current enterprise bargaining agreement.

‘‘It’s going to be devastating if this becomes compulsory,’’ she said.

‘‘I am a mum with three young children and my husband is a police officer and does shift work, so if I got a call to fill a vacancy in Rochester for eight days, I would be expected to do it. I wouldn’t have an option.

‘‘How could I leave my children for eight days? It’s not going to happen.

‘‘I still love my job and I don’t want to leave, but if it happens, I’ll be forced to find something else more family oriented.’’

Mrs Kerr said another female colleague was already looking at other career options in preparation.

‘‘I’m not at the stage yet. I’m just hoping it won’t happen,’’ she said.

Fellow paramedic Ian Wines said the rural reserve condition was something staff would never agree to.

‘‘They will be able to send anybody anywhere at anytime,’’ he said.

‘‘We could be told, ‘next month you’re going to be at Robinvale’. How can people cope with that?’’

Another sticking point is the condition to remove the right to union representation, a move Ambulance Employees Association opposes.

After two years without a pay rise, Mr Wines said paramedics were anxious to bring the dispute to an end — but not at the expense of compromising working conditions.‘‘I don’t think the government is negotiating in good faith,’’ he said.‘‘Over the past two years they have made quite a few different offers and in every one they have removed an existing condition or imposed unrealistic demands like the current offer.

‘‘And now they have sought to discredit us.’’

Health Minister David Davis claimed the offer was fair and consistent with the percentage pay increase and paramedic work value pay claim sought by the ambulance union.

‘‘It also allows for further discussion and the proper resolution of outstanding matters by the independent umpire,’’ he said.

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