My name is Vanessa Harmer and I am a paramedic. And I’m really concerned about the new laws being introduced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott that will allow our penalty rates to be stripped and traded away.
I’ve been an ambo for eight years. I am proud of my job. It’s incredibly rewarding working on those cases where if you hadn’t been there the patient might not have survived. Working with sick kids is the hardest part of my job – and the loss of a parent, when there’s kids left behind.
As a shift worker you make lots of sacrifices for your job. I’ve missed the weddings of friends and family. I’ve missed a few Christmases. And now that I’ve got a nine month old daughter – there’s going to be lots more sacrifices. The hours we work mean I’ll miss a whole day of family meals for each shift that I work.
There’s got to be some incentive to work those shifts that are more taxing on your family life. I am going to be paid more working weekend shifts. To lose penalty rates will mean a twenty-seven per cent pay cut in my wages – many thousands of dollars a year. I know I couldn't afford to lose that pay and neither could you.
Being an ambo is very rewarding. But if it wasn’t worth my while to make these sacrifices I would do something less stressful. And without penalty rates, who would want to work 14 hour night shifts and through weekends? Will it lead to a reduction of ambulance services after hours?
I think Prime Minister Tony Abbott is out of touch with how real people live. He’s trying to take away our rights as employees. You expect those rights to be respected and secure.
It will leave a lot of people vulnerable. Someone like me, a mum returning to work, has to negotiate with my employer about my return to work. These laws could put me in a position where I have no real choice but to trade away my penalty rates.
I don’t think it’s fair. It’s not something I would expect from any government.
It’s really important that we fight this. Because I don’t think Tony Abbott will stop here. I think he’s just testing the waters. This is a sneaky, backdoor way of reintroducing WorkChoices.
But if we all make our voices heard, we can stop this.