23.2 C
Byron Shire
February 29, 2024

The sacrifice for low wages – a paramedic speaks

Latest News

Fire danger period to end early for Northern Rivers

Tweed, Byron, Ballina, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Clarence Valley are among the local government areas (LGAs) that will see an early end to  the Bush Fire Danger Period.

Other News

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: We Need to Talk about Birth

Birth is magical. It is powerful and wild and beautiful and scary and miraculous. Until it’s not. When things go to shit, it happens fast and when your baby dies, your life is changed forever, but not in the way you were expecting.

Short film awesomeness

Flickerfest and iQ are back, Thursday to Saturday at the Mullumbimby Civic Hall. Go on a remarkable cinematic journey...

Clothing-optional at Tyagarah Beach

I am writing to object to Byron Shire Council’s intention to revoke the clothing-optional status of Tyagarah Beach. I grew...

Wallum: lies built on foundation of truth

I am 51 and have been homeless for eight years. I live in a van in a paddock. In...

Punishment

There is a justice problem in criminal assault cases if a person who claims to have been assaulted makes...

Editorial – Prosecuting publishers

WikiLeaks founder and Australian citizen, Julian Assange, will soon face possibly his final court hearing in the UK High Court of Justice over whether he should be extradited to the US to face spying charges. 

A local paramedic says their pay is insufficient as a living wage. Photo www.thejournal.ie.

Every time a paramedic goes to work, there is a pretty good chance they will save someone’s life.

It’s not like a tennis pro winning a tournament, or a rock star writing a hit.

A paramedic’s job impacts on lives and families – they are the first responders to events that can change the course of a person’s existence.

Yet, paramedics both nationally and locally, are struggling to keep their own heads above water, particularly in the Byron Shire area, as a combination of low wages and unaffordable housing is making life tough.

A local paramedic thinks the sacrifice paramedics and their families have to make is asking too much.

‘As the 2.5 per cent NSW public sector wage rise freeze battle is fought in the Industrial Relations Commission, Premier Berejiklian’s argument that we “all need to make sacrifices” is an insult to health workers around the state who make personal sacrifices daily’, says the man, who wishes to remain anonymous.

‘I’m among 4,000 operational paramedics in NSW, working regular weekends and evenings, away from our partners and children.

‘Our absence puts pressure on relationships, many ending in separation and divorce. Most of us have spent years posted to remote areas of the state, serving communities away from our own.

‘We miss meal breaks and finish late. The fatigue of night shifts and the physical demands of the work impacts on our health and longevity. We routinely face occupational violence. Hundreds of us have been kicked, punched, or spat on. And most of us have been psychologically affected to various degrees by the tragedies and cumulative trauma we witness.

‘Our rates of PTSD are comparable to those of the military, and our suicide rate four times higher than in the general population’.

The paramedic says that COVID-19 has arguably become the greatest test of resilience. ‘We watch anxiously as colleagues around the world acquire the virus, some dying, knowing it may one day be us’.

‘People die in our arms for $36 an hour’

The man says that few, if any, do this job for money alone. ‘Why would we? Why routinely be exposed to blood and vomit, threatened by ice-addicts, or have people die in our arms for $36 an hour?’ 

This paramedic says that local affordable housing for local workers, in particular essential services workers, is impossible to find. Approaching his mid-forties with a wife and three children, he says he sometimes wishes he and his family didn’t have to live in a run-down rental, on a main road, with trucks shaking the walls. He says he spends 60 per cent of his fortnightly income on rent. ‘It would be nice to have takeaway once a week with the kids. Or visit the cinema. Or shop somewhere that wasn’t the Salvation Army store.

‘Even some young paramedics in Sydney, with no attachments, are dossing on friends’ lounges or flat-sharing with half-a-dozen others to make ends meet. Either that, or they drive an hour or more to work and back from more affordable suburbs’.

President of the Australian Paramedics Association (APA) for NSW, Chris Kastelan, says that paramedics are highly skilled and highly trained care providers.

‘I think there’s a good level of recognition and understanding of that in the community.

‘Unfortunately, we don’t see this same level of recognition in the wages paid to NSW paramedics – which are some of the lowest in the country, despite high costs of living in many places around our state’.

Mr Kastelan says that when you work for NSW Ambulance, you can be posted anywhere within the state: so paramedics tend to move around a lot, including between metropolitan and regional or rural NSW.

‘Very often, paramedics find themselves locked out of local property or rental markets owing to their base salary, and that’s going to become a real problem in a lot of areas in coming years.

‘If the essential service workers you rely on can’t afford to live in your community, who do you call when you’re in need of help?’

Mr Kastelan says there are also often paramedics posted to new stations, especially to regional stations, at short notice who find themselves unable to secure housing of any sort – because there are simply no vacancies. This has been exacerbated by the increase of ‘sea-changers’ during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Govt pay freeze

‘Our union has been fighting for a major pay increase for paramedics for years, and we currently have a major award case before the IRC. For this case, APA (NSW) gathered hundreds of pages of evidence, including expert economic evidence, and had five days of hearing with a barrister before the Full Bench of the IRC.’ 

The local worker says that most paramedics hold degrees, many post-graduate qualifications, yet earn less than your average tradesperson.

‘The state government’s pay rise freeze not only comes at a time of increased risk and pressure on health workers during COVID-19, but arrives in the context of an existing wage disparity. Paramedics in neighbouring states earn at least $10K more per annum. But instead of bringing NSW paramedics in line with their counterparts, the basic 2.5 per cent is under threat. 

‘For the NSW Government to try to suspend this modest pay rise is a step in the wrong direction.

‘What happened to looking after the people who look after you?’


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Pull your finger out Gladys – are you blind to what paramedics go through every day? Your attitude is pathetic – do something now!

  2. WELL IF YOU DONT LIKE LEAVE. AVERAGE INCOME WITH OVERTIME IS OVER $100000 PER ANNUM TYPICAL WHINGING MOANING AUSTRALIAN
    BECOME A FIREPERSON AND WATCH TV ALL DAY PERHAPS?

    • This is a poor arguement. How easy is it to change careers?
      Paramedics in NSW should not have to work overtime on top of already unsocial shift work to earn a decent salary. Why do paramedics in other states earn more than paramedics in NSW when their scope of practice is more or less the same? Clearly, NSW undervalues their own. The current base salary does not recognise the skills, knowledge, risks, and autonomy of practice expected of paramedics today. It’s not about being unhappy with our wage, it’s about earning an income that’s liveable and recognises the qualification, registration, autonomy, and risk to health and mind.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Israel Palestine

Audacious, humane, sensible, permanent. Achieving such a solution to the present Middle East crisis would require persons of state, that, unlike the current ones...

Byron Dog Rescue: 20 years of lifesaving love and dedication

Celebrating two decades of compassion and dedication to our four-legged friends by Byron Dog Rescue.

Stolen ute, ransacked service station and vandalised police cars

Stolen Brunswick Heads ute allegedly taken on wild adventure ransacking service station and being party to vandalising police cars before being abandoned in the bush at Coraki.

Byron Council reduces fossil fuel investment to 56%

Byron Shire Council investments in projects linked to fossil fuel production decreased significantly after the NSW Treasury Corporation (TCorp) relaxed rules last year.