A VETERAN Advanced Life Support Paramedic based in Stawell has hit out at claims that paramedics are stalling negotiations with the State Government over pay increases.
Ron Lazones, a paramedic for the past 28 years, said reports in metropolitan media relating to the latest wage offer made to Victorian paramedics by the Napthine Liberal Government, did not paint the true picture.
He said the dispute had infact been ongoing for the past two years and yet, paramedics were still no closer to a fair pay deal.
Mr Lazones said the reports also presented incorrect information about how much annual leave paramedics are granted and about their annual salary. It was suggested paramedics in Victoria earn $100,000 and receive 10 weeks annual leave.
"It is frustrating that our wage offers are made public before they are even presented to us," he said.
"I doubt there are many other professions where this occurs."
Mr Lazones said he believed making the offer public was an attempt by the government to make paramedics appear greedy.
"Trust me, we are not greedy. I am not greedy. All we, the paramedics in Victoria want is a fair pay deal," Mr Lazones said.
"If we earned $100,000 and had 10 weeks annual leave, we wouldn't be having this protracted pay dispute with the government.
"Yes, there may be some paramedics who earned in excess of $100,000, but that is only because they would have worked many extra hours on overtime, often without choice.
"Most people get to the end of their day at work, they clock off and they go home. Not paramedics, nurses and other emergency service workers. We are often forced to work several hours past the end of our shift, regardless of other commitments we may have.
"We get four weeks annual leave plus an extra week for the shift work we have to do.
"Now, because we don't have a choice about working public holidays and it is too difficult to give us an extra day off every four weeks for the 38 hour week, we get those extra accrued days off and extra days off for the public holidays, in blocks added to our annual leave."
Mr Lazones said his occupation was like no other, giving examples such as working 48 hours some weeks and 34 on other weeks, averaging out over an eight week cycle to 42 hours per week.
Paramedics also generally work 10 hour day shifts and 14 hour night shifts. On their first day off, officers have worked seven hours from midnight to 7am.
"This is not really a day off. It is a recovery day. Most people work eight hour days, so we effectively have worked almost a full day on our so called day off," he said.
He said some rural paramedics worked eight consecutive 10 hour day shifts, then work on-call for 14 hours overnight for their first seven days of work. They are then granted six days off.
"It may appear that we have more days off than other occupations but actually, we work just as many hours, we just work longer shifts," he said.
Mr Lazones said paramedics were also frustrated by the fact that they were always upgrading their Advanced Life Saving skills, enabling them to do more for patients before arriving at hospital, but promises of appropriate remuneration for the additional training and responsibility were not being met.
"Paramedics in South Australia now earn $30,000 more per year than we do," Mr Lazones said.
"They do the same job, work the same hours and face the same challenges and yet the Napthine Government doesn't believe that we deserve the same wage.
"We are not being greedy. We are not being selfish. All we want is a fair deal."