Davis responds to local paramedics

LETTER TO THE EDITOR:

AS Minister for Health, I fully understand and appreciate the wonderful job paramedics do in attending to ill and injured Victorians, 24 hours per day.

In response to letters from paramedics Paul McMahon, Bernard Goss and Glenn Lazzaro I too acknowledge and value their work.

And it’s because of our appreciation that the Victorian Coalition government is supporting Ambulance Victoria to provide our paramedics with the salary increases they rightfully deserve, and to maintain their superannuation and other benefits.

This is in contrast to their union, which is using our paramedics as the meat in the sandwich in its politically-motivated campaign to discredit Ambulance Victoria and the government.

Ambulance Victoria, supported by the government, has been negotiating in good faith for two years to bring to a conclusion to the current enterprise bargaining agreement, but the ambulance union leadership has a vested interest in not resolving the dispute.

Mr Goss, Mr Lazzaro and Mr McMahon claim that an ALS6 paramedic only earns about $70,000.

However, in addition to base wages, paramedics are entitled to a number of other benefits that increase their overall total remuneration package.

These include:

Leave loading that equates to $1300 a year for an ALS6;

Defined benefit superannuation contributions that equate to $9600 a year for an ALS6;

Fringe benefits that can be a maximum of $9095 a year, which has a grossed-up tax value of $17,000 a year; and

Meals-entertainment benefit that allows employees to salary sacrifice an uncapped amount of further eligible claims.

When the pay increases in the Ambulance Victoria Settlement offer are applied, by the last year of the proposed agreement, a typical ALS6 would be in receipt of a total annual remuneration package of around $110,000, before any additional overtime is added.

Mr McMahon claims that the government has stonewalled and dragged out the EBA negotiations for more than two years, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The delay in finalising a settlement rests entirely with the current leadership at the Ambulance Employees Australia Victoria who are politically aligned with the Labor Party.

This is what we are offering our hard-working paramedics:

A $3000 sign-on payment for full-timers (pro-rata for part-timers);

In 2014, a six per cent increase on base wages and relevant allowances on approval of the Agreement by the Fair Work Commission;

A further three per cent increase from July 1, 2015;

Another three per cent increase from July 1, 2016; and

Consent arbitration of the paramedic work value claim by the independent umpire the Fair Work Commission.

There is another agenda at play here the union facilitation clause.

It is clear that the union wants to ensure that the union facilitation clauses are preserved, and this means payment for union secondments and payments for union members to attend union meetings, rather than being on the road.

It is interesting that while the union seems to have at least partially backed off from its initial $1.3 billion log of claims, one part it has not backed off from is the expansion in the union facilitation clause.

The expansion would see more union secondment in other words, more ambulance officers taken off the road to put their feet under the desks at the union office.

Instead of saving the lives of Victorians, they would be paid by ambulance subscribers and government money to do union work.

The Victorian Coalition government does support our paramedics, and the sooner they get the chance to vote on their EBA without the heavy-handed interference of their union leaders, the sooner they will receive the pay increases they deserve.