The union representing ambulance employees in Victoria has abandoned talks with the government, saying that Ambulance Victoria and the government arrived at negotiations on February 3 with an offer of a pay rise half that of previous negotiations.
Ambulance Employees Australia secretary Steve McGhie told Green Left Weekly: “This offer is an insult, it's disappointing that they have moved backwards rather than moved forward.
“They reduced their wage offer by half, only offering 6%. Our members rejected a 12% pay rise offer, you can imagine what they would say to this.
“The 12% offer was for a three year agreement, this 6% had no reference to the terms of the agreement. We assume that it would be for 3 years, they made no mention of a second or third payment.”
McGhie said there had been media reports that Ambulance Victoria claim the 12% offer is still on the table, and is still waiting on a reply to his letter seeking confirmation of that.
The union is applying to the Fair Work Commission to hold a ballot of members on taking industrial action, and expects to have confirmation of this before the union's next delegates' meeting on February 12. McGhie said the union was discussing industrial action ranging from paperwork bans to stopwork actions.
Negotiations have been under way for 18 months. Sticking points for the union have included the proposed increased use of volunteers in regional areas instead of professional, paid paramedics.
“We're in our 18th month of negotiations”, said McGhie. “We've had 32 meetings with Ambulance Victoria and Department of Health officials.”
A state election is scheduled for November. Over the past two months, the government placed ads promoting their offer in statewide and many regional newspapers. McGhie said the ads cost “just under $500,000”, and that they politicised the issue by communicating “through a newspaper to persuade public opinion”.
“We want this resolved as soon as possible”, he said. “Ambulance employees have had no pay increase since August 2011. We would think the government would want to get this out of the way as soon as possible,” he said.
One union member wrote to the Sunraysia Daily: “The Minister’s letter makes paramedics out to be ungrateful, greedy people, but does not mention that we are the lowest paid paramedics in Australia, and does not mention all the fine print which makes this offer less than 2.4 per cent. We are just asking for pay parity with other states.”