Close to a thousand paramedics were joined by grieving parents Julie Wilson and Steve Gibbs at their Code Red protest on the steps of Parliament House, Melbourne today.
Julie and Steve, both of whom lost their sons in separate instances when paramedics were unable to respond in time to their emergencies, spoke of the pain of loss and their support of ambulance staff in the Code Red campaign.
“The stress of being part of a service which is losing the race to improve response times must be immense,” said Julie, whose 18-year old son Brodie died after waiting 27 minutes for an ambulance.
“All Victorians have the right to expect and demand a state government to provide them with a functional ambulance service. I, along with thousands of other Victorians, support your demands for a pay deal that reflects your education and job requirements.
“The first step in providing Victorians a reliable and functional ambulance service is to pay you, the workers, correctly.”
Steve said he attended the rally to let all paramedics know that they had the respect and support of the community. He spoke movingly of how he witnessed five paramedics work tirelessly to try to save his son, Matthew who waited 16 minutes for an ambulance.
Steve said he had directly witnessed the conditions and stress under which paramedics work. “To be honest, I don’t know why you do it for your current pay,” he said.
“You are world class paramedics, you deserve to be paid as such. Don’t accept anything less.”
The rally observed one minute’s silence in memory of Matthew and Brodie. Julie and Steve (pictured) supported one another during the rally.
Other speakers included the Upper House Greens MP Colleen Hartland and the Opposition Leader, Daniel Andrews who committed to supporting paramedics in their push for pay equity with other states.
Mr Andrews slammed the recent tactics of Health Minister David Davis, declaring that full page advertisements in newspapers, and exaggerated claims about how much paramedics earned did not save lives.
“What saves lives in this state is you, every minute, of every hour, of every day in this state ,” said Mr Andrews.
“This premier (Denis Napthine) needs to acknowledge that instead of attacking our paramedics, he ought to be sitting down and negotiating in good faith with you to get an outcome that fairly rewards you and allows you to provide better care, better support for patients who need you at their most vulnerable.”
Steve McGhie, State Secretary of Ambulance Employees Australia (United Voice), said paramedics were determined to win pay parity with other states, but also to defend the conditions that make the service so valuable to the public.
He warned that the government’s inadequate pay offer came with strings attached, such as the push for volunteer first aiders to replace trained paramedics in regional Victoria, and forced relocations of paramedics to fill service gaps across the state.
McGhie told the rally that as the 2014 state election grew closer the government would increasingly feel the pressure of the campaign
Paramedics from as far as Mildura, Warrnambool , Geelong and Gippsland travelled to Melbourne to join the rally, the biggest in the Code Red campaign.
Members handed Mr Andrews a 23,000-signature petition demanding a fair pay decision to present to parliament.