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Paramedics vote to accept Govt deal

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Paramedics have voted overwhelmingly to accept a State Government deal that will see an extra 74 paramedics trained and employed and some roster reforms.

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The Government has responded by ordering paramedics to stop writing protest messages on ambulances, but the union says it will continue.

It comes nearly a month after the union agreed “in principle” to the latest offer, in an attempt to end a bitter industrial dispute.

Ambulance Employees Association state secretary Phil Palmer this morning said 91 per cent of the union’s 1600 members had voted to support the deed in a secret ballot.

He said “the Union Executive does not for one minute discount the concerns of those who voted no”.

“Their concern is that 74 new ambos are nowhere near enough to resolve all the chronic shortages in every corner of SA Ambulance,” Palmer said.

“In fact, that view is shared by 100 per cent of the members including the union executive, which is why the 74 is accepted as a first instalment only and the members vowed to fight on.”

Palmer said that in addition to accepting the proposal, “AEA members have issued a warning to the government that the first instalment is not the end of our campaign to make SA Ambulance Service and the community safe – it is only the first win in our campaign”.

Palmer said union members at a general meeting last week had “unanimously demanded that the Government commit to continue hiring more ambos until safe levels have been reached”.

He said it was “a process that cannot be achieved overnight in the case of paramedics, but much more quickly for ambulance officers, communications and support staff”.

Palmer said the Government should have recruited more than 150 ambulance staff over the past nearly three years and that discussions would continue about additional rosters, emphasising that “these discussions do not include existing rosters unless those working the roster consent”.

He said the ambulance service and union would “explore ways of improving meal breaks”.

“The AEA is keen for this to occur and asserts that it can be done without changing existing crib location and duration,” he said.

“The Treasurer tried to characterise the deed as a win for them; his claim that there will be ‘comprehensive’ roster reform is misleading spin.

“There are no winners when South Australians have a Government that has no regard for the deep concerns of ambos about the risks to the community.”

Treasurer Rob Lucas welcomed the “resounding acceptance of the deal by front-line employees” and said the SA Ambulance Service would begin the recruitment process of the extra ambulance officers and paramedics immediately.

“Finally, after months of dispute, our hardworking ambos and paramedics have had an opportunity to have their voices heard and they have strongly agreed with the Government’s positive plan,” Lucas said.

“This is a huge step forward, not only for those on the front-line, but for all South Australians who rely on the service.

“The SA Ambulance Service will now begin the recruitment process, with employees hired as soon as possible and, with training required, the last of the new FTEs will be on board no later than the end of March next year, in accordance with the agreement.

“We recognise the enormous contribution our hard-working ambos make in our community and this deal will help ensure they can deliver the best possible service to South Australians while reducing fatigue and improving work-life balance.”

Lucas said consistent with the terms of the agreement, a direction had been issued by the SAAS Chief Executive Officer this morning for all chalking to end, “effective immediately”, and for all “graffiti messages” to be removed from ambulances as a matter of priority.

But Palmer said union members would continue to chalk ambulances to “highlight the failings of this Government”.

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