NSW paramedics will join nurses across the state by taking industrial action this week.
Thousands of NSW nurses in public hospitals will walk off the job on Tuesday for the first time in a decade as part of a long-running campaign for better staffing and pay.
Meanwhile, members of the Australian Paramedics Association have voted almost unanimously to implement 24-hour statewide bans on staff movement on Thursday.
Staff movement is the practice of relocating staff from their station to fill ‘roster gaps’ nearby.
The union says staff movements are routinely used by NSW Ambulance to cut costs and avoid adequately staffing stations.
“Paramedics are exhausted, frustrated, and burnt out,” APA NSW President Chris Kastelan said on Monday.
The union has been calling for more resources — including 1500 more paramedics — as the health system strains under the burden of the two-year pandemic.
“But our pleas are falling on deaf ears,” Mr Kastelan said.
“This government will happily pay lip service to thanking frontline workers, but when push comes to shove they aren’t prepared to properly support us, or pay us what we’re worth.”
The union has a clear set of demands including a massive investment in specialist paramedic programs and a real pay increase, in addition to a pandemic bonus and allowance.
“We’re not just at crisis point — we’re now years into a crisis, with no indication of a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
NSW Nurses and Midwives Association General Secretary Brett Holmes says Tuesday’s strike will impact 150 public hospitals when nurses strike from 7 am.
The timing and length of the action will vary from hospital to hospital and skeleton staff will remain at work to ensure patient care.
Mr Holmes said it was “really painful” for nurses to take strike action but they had to send a strong message to Premier Dominic Perrottet.
“If he doesn’t listen there will be tens of thousands of nurses who are considering their future,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on Monday.
The union has been pushing for minimum staff-to-patient ratios.
“We need a health system where there’s a guarantee that there are enough nurses and midwives on every shift, not just on average over a seven day period,” he said.
Nurses are also unhappy with the government’s 2.5 per cent a year pay offer, which Mr Holmes described as “a complete insult” to nurses who put themselves on the line every day during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard is meeting with the union on Monday, but the premier says “a number of issues need to be resolved” and it “would appear unlikely” they can be solved before the strike on Tuesday.
Mr Perrottet says 2800 nurse graduates last week began working in 130 hospitals to boost the workforce.
“Our frontline workers during a pandemic have worked incredibly hard and I want to give them as much support as I can and we’re working through those issued with the union,” he told 2GB.
Asked if he was prepared to review the current pay offer he replied: “absolutely”.