The state’s paramedics are celebrating after the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) ratified new rosters negotiated by staff and management yesterday.
The Health Services Union (HSU) state secretary Gerard Hayes told the ABC this morning that common sense had prevailed and the ‘draconian rosters’ imposed on rural paramedics by the NSW Ambulance Service last year had now been officially scrapped.
‘The rosters now give paramedics the ability to serve the community, look after their families and address the fatigue issues,’ Mr Hayes said.
The controversial rosters rolled out at 23 rural stations last year, including most northern rivers stations, without consultation, included the use of controversial single-crew ambulances.
David Lipman, industrial officer with the NSW Health Services Union, told Echonetdaily last week that in some cases that could mean getting a police officer or a firefighter to drive, but if paramedics were really desperate they might have had to get a member of the public to drive.
Paramedics claimed the rosters compounded fatigue and compromised patient safety by putting officers on call for up to 16 hours, seven days straight, and were so concerned they threatened unprecedented strike action at the time.
After nearly nine months of negotiations, the commissioner, Justice Roger Boland, ordered the NSW Ambulance Service to return to the drawing board with paramedics and redraft the rosters or face a return to the original rosters.
Mr Lipman said last week that it was essential paramedics be involved in developing rosters.
‘They are the people who know how the rosters work, they’re the people who use the rosters and they’re the people who know how to build a roster – these are the people who actually work in the field,’ he said.
Paramedics said new parameters had been applied to the rosters that achieved a ‘safe working environment, a healthy work/life balance, and savings for the NSW Ambulance Service’, but at the eleventh hour management presented different rosters in a last ditch attempt to increase savings.
The HSU rejected the rosters threatening to return to Commissioner Boland empty handed. The ambulance service conceded and the deal was struck.
Paramedics say they will now look at the Phase 2 and 3 rosters in the hope of applying ‘the same common sense’ to those as well.