Paramedic pay dispute drags on

THE Ambulance Employees Association Victoria has rejected a revised offer from Ambulance Victoria and the state government, with the parties walking away from a Fair Work Commission meeting on November 26 no closer to an agreement.

Paramedics will rally at Parliament House in Melbourne tomorrow, presenting a petition of 24,000 signatures directly to Premier Denis Napthine.

In putting a revised offer on the table, Ambulance Victoria had offered to provide a $1500 one-off payment to paramedics before Christmas. Should Ambulance Victoria and the union be unable to reach an agreement, Ambulance Victoria has offered to submit to the Fair Work Commission and participate in consent arbitration.

In a letter issued to all paramedics, Ambulance Victoria chief executive Greg Sassella said it acknowledged paramedics and their colleagues deserved a meaningful and respectful wage increase.

“After ongoing negotiations, the AEA-V sought wage increases of six per cent, three per cent and three per cent as well as a sign on bonus of $1500 for all employees and a further work wage determination for paramedics,” he said.

“The offer to all employees covered under the agreement is made up of a number of components, including an up front cash payment.

“This payment is to address the fact that, as back pay increases are not possible and the negotiations are significantly delayed, we will at least be able to provide a one-off payment prior to Christmas and to make up for the loss of back pay.”

Ambulance Victoria’s offer includes an immediate $1500 sign-on payment for full-timers (pro rata for part-timers), a six per cent increase in 2014 to base wages and relevant allowances, a three per cent increase from the first full pay period on or after July 1, 2015, and a further three per cent increase from the first full pay period on or after July 1 2016.

“The offer also provides that we roll-over current 2009 award provisions so that existing other benefits including leave and superannuation are preserved,” Mr Sassella said.

“The offer is to be followed by further negotiations about changes to work practices that increase the availability of ambulances to respond to the patients in need of urgent assistance, and the claim for additional work-value-based wage increases.”

Mr Sassella said should negotiations fall through to consent arbitration, the process would include the work value component.

“The increase to paramedic wages determined in the Fair Work Commission will be paid in addition to the (previously mentioned) offer,” he said.

“The changes being sought by Ambulance Victoria in return for the work-value-based wage offer are designed to maintain and increase the capability, flexibility and mobility of our workforce in order to better service the community.”

Mr Sassella said Ambulance Victoria was currently preparing wage schedules to show the effect (offered) increases would have on wages.

However the union has rejected the offer, with Ambulance Employees Australia of Victoria secretary Steve McGhie saying the offer was effectively a 2.4 per cent pay increase over five years, with the $1500 up front payment on offer in lieu of back pay.

“On Tuesday, November 26 in Fair Work Commission, the government and Ambulance Victoria walked away and didn’t think we were any further to an agreement,” he said.

“They put forward a wage offer of six, three and three per cent which they think is fantastic.

“But it wasn’t so fantastic; it’s not the full story.

“They wanted to trade away conditions and we have concerns it will affect their super over time; we are concerned they want to use part time volunteers in lieu of paramedics.”

Mr McGhie said while the union had advocated for consent arbitration in relation to wages, it was not willing to trade away on conditions.

He said he expected the Fair Work Commissioner to seek a meeting with all parties this week.

“While it isn’t an acceptable offer, it’s the first real offer they have put on the table since March,” Mr McGhie said.

“The union has advocated for consent arbitration on wages since 2012; we could have had it done and dusted.”