Victorian ambulance paramedics have voted overwhelmingly to seek the right to take strike action in a bid to bring their 20-month wages dispute to an end.
More than 98 per cent of votes cast in last week’s registered ballot of paramedics were in favour of intensifying industrial action.
Possible actions that might result from the heightened industrial campaign range from stop works to internal communication bans to allowing the media to have direct access to members during work shifts. This will enable the public to be fully informed of the extent of the ambulance crisis.
“With this comprehensive vote for tougher action our members are sending the government a clear signal to get serious or deal with the consequences,” Ambulance Employees Association state secretary Steve McGhie said.
“This government has stalled for months. It is time it faced up to the fact that this dispute must be settled, and the only way to settle it is to reward paramedics properly.
“Our members are the highest trained ambulance staff in the country, but they are the poorest paid. They are not willing to tolerate this any longer.
“I don’t want signal our future tactics but one move could be to allow journalists to ride along with paramedics on shift, so that they can witness the reality of the paramedics’ work. That way the public can learn just how vital and how difficult this work is, and how important it is that our members be properly rewarded.”
The vote was conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission. Almost 1700 paramedics voted with only 33 voting ‘no’. The industrial action proposal comprised 22 separate work bans.
Base pay for paramedics in South Australia, for example, is $12,700 more than in Victoria. A survey of Victorian paramedics last year revealed that 55 per cent expected to quit within five years. Ambulance coverage in major regional towns is already inadequate and the service cannot afford to lose any of its highly skilled staff.