UPDATED 3:40pm: NSW paramedics are celebrating a 25 per cent pay boost, after the Health Services Union and NSW Government reached a record pay agreement today (13 December). Health Minister Ryan Park said the government’s first priority was to retain existing paramedics while delivering critical increases in paramedic numbers where they were most needed.
From today (30 November), paramedics across NSW will refuse to renew their professional registration until the NSW Government agrees to a pay increase.
NSW paramedics are the lowest paid in the country, despite being professionally recognised by the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency (AHPRA) in 2018.
“For that recognition we get to pay an annual fee of $240 and have the word paramedic on our uniform,” Illawarra Health Services Union (HSU) delegate Carol Bond said.
“If we don’t pay the fee, by 1 January we will not be able to have that word on our uniform or use the professional skills that have been added to our work duties for years.
“We will still turn up to work, but we will just be ambulance drivers – which is what we’re paid for.”
Some of those professional skills save lives every day, such as giving specialist medication to heart attack victims to dissolve blood clots, letting trapped air out of patients with collapsed lungs, and giving fluids and high-performance resuscitation with a specialist machine.
Others keep people out of hospital and free up resources for those who need them most, such as changing catheters at home and giving stitches.
Ms Bond thinks the community would be surprised to learn what she earns for those skills.
“I earn less than half of what a teacher at TAFE does for teaching first aid,” she said.
“My hourly rate is less than half of that.
“That’s working 24/7. A lot of paramedics have second jobs; one of our delegates has three jobs, and a lot of us work overtime in the same job, because we don’t have enough paramedics.
“We are professionals; we want the NSW Government to pay us as professionals and give us that recognition.”
The HSU is calling for NSW paramedics to be paid in line with QLD paramedics – a 20 per cent pay rise.
Health Minister Ryan Park said “budgetary challenges” were getting in the way of an agreement.
“We are making headway; we had some significant and very positive discussions over the last 24 hours,” he said at a press conference this morning.
“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 issue together.
“We are still at the negotiation table, but we haven’t got a resolution as yet.”
Almost 2000 paramedics across the state will take part in the registration boycott, including aeromedical staff, intensive care paramedics, and special operations paramedics who abseil down cliffs or rescue patients from confined spaces.
Ms Bond said the decision to boycott wasn’t made lightly, but enough was enough.
“It’s unsettling that we have to go down this pathway to convince the government of what we’re worth,” she said.
“We slogged it through COVID, we were deployed to areas that weren’t our own, we had no option of working from home and we did it in gowns and masks and gloves and goggles and face shields.
“We waited outside of hospitals for hours to get patients to the right place.
“In the Illawarra we don’t have teams that clean and restock ambulances, so after those jobs we would have to decontaminate everything for the next job.
“We’re beyond getting thanked for what we do – the thanks is lovely, but this is about professional recognition and professional pay.”