“Used and let down” paramedics have written to NSW Premier Chris Minns, urging his government to honour an election promise to drastically improve pay and conditions.
More than 1900 NSW paramedics have pledged to boycott renewing their medical registration, which would severely restrict their ability to administer clinical work from January 1. This comes as the Health Service Union is demanding ambos receive a 20 per cent pay rise equal with their Queensland counterparts.
While paramedics must renew with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (APHRA) by November 30, staff have a grace period of 31 days before the restrictions come into place.
The letter, seen by NCA NewsWire, was delivered to Mr Minns on Thursday night and written by Narromine paramedic Lani Farrugia and Merimbula paramedic Chris Branson, both of whom are also Health Service Union (HSU) delegates.
The healthcare workers had previously been invited by Mr Minns to attend his first question time as Opposition Leader in June 2021 when they said he “expressed a deep commitment to addressing the pay and working conditions of paramedics” – a promise they said he now appeared to have abandoned.
“However, over two years have passed since that day, and we find ourselves disillusioned by the refusal to provide paramedics with what we consider a reasonable pay offer,” the letter read.
“Our expectations were based on your promise to make paramedic pay and conditions a central issue in your campaign, a promise that gave us hope for a brighter future for our profession.”
Mr Branson and Ms Farrugia said they felt “used and let down” and demanded the government adopt the HSU’s calls for a 20 per cent pay rise.
They said the 4 per cent increase given to public sector wages didn’t address inflation, or the 12 years of pay suppression under the former government, despite paramedics taking on increased workloads and increased responsibilities.
“The current pay offer falls far short of what paramedics deserve,” they wrote.
“We understand the complexities of governing and the need to balance various interests, but we implore you to remember the commitment you made to us and the paramedic community.”
HSU secretary Gerard Hayes said the government had asked the HSU to consider private arbitration, which would result in a government-appointed mediator making a binding negotiation.
Mr Hayes said delegates were “not happy” about the proposal, with 10 paramedics set to meet with the government on Friday. It’s understood NSW Health Minister Ryan Park and NSW Industrial Relations Minister Sophie Cotsis will be present at the meeting.
“They’re saying it’s a huge leap into the unknown, with no guarantees, or no right of appeal,” he said.
Mr Hayes said the government needed to follow through with its promise to boost paramedic pay or risk losing workers to Queensland, Victoria or the ACT, where workers could get a salary increase between 22 to 33 per cent.
“The government made commitments to the paramedics, the government had paramedics in question time, the government stood by paramedics all over the place and committed to them about professional rates,” he said.
“They’re trying to shift that commitment into a process, (hoping) we’d all forget about the commitment.”
On Thursday, Mr Park said that while no pay offer had been made, he believed there had been “very positive discussions” with the HSU.
Commenting on the possibility more than 1900 paramedics could be deregistered on January 1, Mr Park said he was “working on contingencies” amid ongoing negotiations.
“As I have frequently said, we are working through what is a challenging issue,” he said.
“We know and understand the importance of recognising the professionalisation of paramedics, I understand that, but we do have a budgetary challenge and we are working through that.”