Dubbo MP and Deputy Premier Troy Grant has condemned a “distasteful” campaign by NSW paramedics, but said he supports what they are trying to achieve.
Paramedics across the Orana region, including Dubbo and Wellington, have chalk-painted their ambulances in protest of their death and disability insurance, which has been cut by up to 75 per cent for a permanently disabled paramedic.
Mr Grant said “I’ll back my paramedics every day of the week”, but condemned the “unionist” tactics behind the campaign.
“Without doubt we’ve got to look after our paramedics,” Mr Grant said.
“They do it tough, they’re on the front line and their work at times is very, very tough...but there’s a way to do things and a way not to do things as well.
“Paramedic buses or the vans aren’t the place to have that sort of dispute. They’re for the community. They’re not there for union tactics in my view.”
But Health Services Union Orana subbranch president and paramedic Allison Moffitt said they have no choice.
“We’ve exhausted all of our legal options,” Ms Moffitt said.
“We’ve been to the Industrial Relations Commission, we’ve spoken to government.
“Paramedics in the past have been gagged about talking about anything that goes on within our workplace but this is such a big issue for us – our livelihood's at stake, it's our families’ future at stake – so people have decided to speak out.”
Mr Grant has already spoken with Premier Mike Baird and Parliamentary Secretary for Regional and Rural Health Sarah Mitchell on the issue, and said he plans to meet with NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner once he has all of the facts.
He blamed the Labor government and the paramedics’ union for the current state of play.
The two agreed on a co-contribution scheme in 2008 which entitled the government to review the scheme once costs hit 3.6 per cent of wages in 2015.
“The paramedics’ union didn’t really check the fine print I think,” Mr Grant said.
“They seem to have landed in a spot where they’re worse off and are exposed if they are injured at work.
“Particularly because the injuries that they sustain in their work make them very unlikely to get other employment, which is very difficult and if you're the main breadwinner and supporting a family that’s something that obviously gives you justified concern.”