Flying Doctor ambulance paramedics and nurses take industrial action

Flying Doctor ambulance paramedics and nurses take industrial action

October 29, 2020

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Nurses and paramedics who transport patients in Royal Flying Doctor Service ambulances in Victoria have started an indefinite campaign of industrial action over a pay dispute.

The union members, who provide non-emergency transport, have voted to ban overtime, write slogans on their vehicles and return back to base for their meal breaks rather than eating on the road.

Victorian Ambulance Union secretary Danny Hill said his members had been on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic in Victoria transporting patients to hospitals.Credit:Chris Hopkins

They fear the introduction of a two-tiered wage system that will reduce the pay of new staff by $4000 a year compared to current workers, whose wages will be grandfathered. The service says the new system is necessary to rein in costs as the industry has become more competitive.

Victorian Ambulance Union secretary Danny Hill said his members had been on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic in Victoria transporting patients to hospitals. The sentiment was echoed by nurses' union state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick.

"The work they have performed has been pivotal," Mr Hill said. "It is shameful that RFDS would target them in this way."

The Flying Doctors' actual flying services will not be impacted by the dispute, which relates only to the crews in road ambulances that the RFDS is contracted to run by Ambulance Victoria and other healthcare operators.

A spokesman for the RFDS said patients would be unaffected, despite some staff doing hours of overtime several days a week.

"In this proposed EBA, we are seeking to employ clinical staff under a new schedule of rates, however, these remain above the award and at the highest level of rates paid by other companies operating in our sector," the spokesman said. RFDS was not trying to generate a profit, he said.

At present, staff eat on the road rather than returning to base for meal breaks, which saves commuting time and lets ambulances be used more efficiently.

The Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation and the ambulance union, which are both behind the industrial action, have flagged an escalating campaign of industrial action if their demand to scrap the lower pay for newcomers is not met.

Existing workers would only get a wage rise in line with inflation under any likely agreement, they said.

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