I can’t give way conditions that would destroy the lives of paramedics with families.

Earlier today one of my most highly respected colleagues wrote this. It’s long but sums up our frustration pretty well. It’s long but worth a read if you want to know some details. We can’t afford to run ads in the Herald Sun and the newspaper is running a campaign against the paramedic workforce on behalf of the Liberal Party. I have no interest in being part of the ALP’s election campaign but I can’t give way conditions that would destroy the lives of paramedics with families.

Here is a copy of the email I have just sent to Michelle Ainsworth (a reporter for the Sun Newspaper) this morning after reading her biased report in the paper:

Re: Latest Victorian Paramedic Pay-rise Offer

Dear Ms Ainsworth,

 I have just read your article in the Sun newspaper about the latest wage offer made to Victorian Paramedics by the Napthine Liberal Government. This dispute has gone on for nearly 2 years and Victorian Paramedics still are no closer to a fair pay deal.
The only reason I can write this email to you is because of our current Protected Industrial Action. The only reason Paramedics are highlighting the problems with the Victorian Healthcare System is because of our Protected Industrial Action.
Please read on. Please don’t dismiss my email because you have already shown which side of the fence you are on. I read your entire article. I urge you to read my entire email. I challenge you to publish it (in its entirety).
I am an Advanced Life Support Paramedic in Victoria and have done this difficult job for the past 28 years. In 1998 I survived a near fatal crash when a semi-trailer went through a red light in Kew and collided with the Ambulance I was a passenger in. Over the past 28 years I have been threatened, assaulted, abused and had weapons pulled on me. Now, as a further insult, not only do I have an unsympathetic Government and Ambulance Management attacking me, but I also have uneducated and misinformed media reporters telling gross lies about what I earn and how much Annual Leave I get.
How many times do Paramedics have to defend themselves against these lies? Why do the Press feel that it is appropriate to take the side of the Government and attempt to discredit Paramedics? Your reporting of this dispute and the Government wage offer is biased and misrepresentative and therefore lacks credibility. Paramedics have been voted the most trusted profession for the 10th year in a row. I’m not sure where the Press, reporters and Politicians came, but I don’t think it was even in the top 10.
How would you like it if any wage offers that were made to you were made public in a Press conference before they were made to you? That stunt by Napthine and Davis is nothing more than an attempt to make Paramedics look greedy. Trust me, we are not greedy. I am not greedy. All we, the Paramedics in Victoria, want is a FAIR pay deal. My Group Certificate for the 2013 – 2014 Financial Year shows that I earned approximately $72,000. I did not Salary Package $9,000 like some Paramedics were able to, due to my own personal circumstances.
$72,000, that’s a long way short of your reported $100,000. If we earned $100,000 and had 10 weeks Annual Leave as you suggest, we wouldn’t be having this protracted pay dispute with the Government. Yes, there may be some Paramedics who earned in excess of $100,000 but that is only because they would have worked many extra hours on Overtime, often without choice. Most people get to the end of their day at work, they clock off and they go home. Not Paramedics, Nurses and other Emergency Service workers. We are often forced to work several hours past the end of our shift, regardless of other commitments we may have.
We get 4 weeks Annual Leave + an extra 1 week Leave for the shift work we have to do. That is 5 weeks Leave if my maths is correct. Now, because we don’t have a choice about working Public Holidays and it is too difficult to give us an extra day off every 4 weeks for the 38 hour week, we get those extra ADO’s (Accrued Days Off) and extra days off for the Public Holidays, in blocks added to our Annual Leave. These ADO’s and days off in lieu of Public Holidays add up to 5 weeks in total. Add that to our 5 weeks Leave and we appear to get 10 weeks Leave, but only 5 weeks is Annual Leave. In fact, we don’t get any more time off than anyone else, it’s just that we take the time off in blocks rather than spaced out like most people.
Most Paramedics work full time, which is 38 hours per week, but because of rostering, this is 40 hours or more per week. On the typical 10 / 14 roster (4 days on, 4 days off) some weeks we work 48 hours, some weeks only 34, but over an 8 week cycle, we work on average 42 hours. 2 of these hours are accumulated towards ADO’s and 2 hours is built in Overtime. This built in Overtime is not optional, it is compulsory. We generally work 10 hour day shifts and 14 hour night shifts. On our first day off, we have worked 7 hours from midnight to 7am. This is not really a day off. It is a recovery day. Most people work 8 hour days so we effectively have worked almost a full days work (on our so called day off).
Some Rural Paramedics work 8 X 10 hour day shifts straight (8am to 6pm) but then work On-Call for 14 hours overnight for their first 7 days of work. They then get 6 days off. On average, they work a minimum of 40 hours per week.
It may appear that we have more days off than other occupations but actually, we work just as many hours, we just work longer shifts.
Over the past 10 – 15 years we have taken on many new Advanced Life Saving skills and drugs so that we can do more for our patients before arriving at hospital. Each time we have taken on these extra drugs and skills, we have been promised appropriate remuneration for the extra training and responsibility that goes along with it. However, over the last 3 or 4 EBA’s we have negotiated, we have been sold short with no real increase to match our increased skill level. Once our wage was appropriate for what we did, now it sadly is not.
Paramedics in South Australia now earn $30,000 more per year than we do. They do the same job, work the same hours and face the same challenges and yet the Napthine Government doesn’t believe that we deserve the same wage. We are not being greedy. We are not being selfish. All we want is a FAIR DEAL. What we want is PAY PARITY with South Australian Paramedics.
Our EBA battle with the Government has been overshadowed by all the information about the Victorian Healthcare System crisis. Hospital waiting times, Ambulance ramping, Ambulance response times, etc, etc. If and when we reach an agreement on our EBA, all the publicity about our Healthcare System crisis will go away because we will be silenced, however, the crisis will remain, you just won’t hear about it from us.
Paramedics are hurt and we are becoming angry at the Government because of their contempt towards us. We are more united and determined than ever to fight this out till the end. We do this job because we are caring and compassionate people. We would like this dispute resolved sooner rather than later but if our a Liberal Government wants to go to the election later this year with this pay dispute unresolved, so be it. We will campaign stronger than ever to have them voted out. We are our Union. We are not hardline Union Thugs. It’s about time Napthine and Davis showed us the respect we deserve.
Yours truly,
Ron Lazones
Advanced Life Support Paramedic

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