AN experienced Wimmera ambulance paramedic says he is one of many expected to leave their jobs as a pay dispute with the State Government continues.
The ambulance union has been negotiating with Ambulance Victoria and the government since mid last year and aims to secure better pay and working conditions for paramedics.
Stawell paramedic Greg Hallam, who has 16 years' experience, is also an Ambulance Employees of Australia Victorian councillor and union delegate.
He said job search website Seek was one of his favourite websites at the moment.
"It is not only that we don't feel appreciated, but we are not valued for the work we do," Mr Hallam said.
"With increasing health care reductions by the State Government, patients are spending more time under our care.
"A survey has shown that about half of the paramedics in Victoria would consider moving elsewhere."
Almost 600 Victorian paramedics responded to the Ambulance Victoria Workforce Retention Study, which found that 55 per cent of those surveyed planned to quit their jobs in the next five years.
The study also found that 54 per cent of respondents would travel interstate to work as paramedics.
Ambulance Employees Australia state secretary Steve McGhie said the results were a stark warning and could mean the loss of 1500 experienced paramedics by 2018.
He said Victorian paramedics earned almost $25,000 a year less than paramedics in other states.
Mr McGhie said Ambulance Victoria claimed its pay deal offered experienced paramedics a rise of up to five per cent a year.
"But a loss in overtime and entitlements will leave most with little more than a dollar extra a week," he said.
"This is well below the rate of inflation and represents a real pay cut."
Mr Hallam said he was one of about 38 qualified paramedics in the Wimmera, who were based in towns including Edenhope, Nhill, Dimboola, Horsham, Warracknabeal, St Arnaud and Stawell.
He said paramedics were already spending long periods of time covering other areas, which had led to delayed ambulance response times.
"Ambulance services are stretched fairly tightly across the state and particularly the Wimmera," Mr Hallam said.
"Morale is very low."
About 75 per cent of union members voted in favour of industrial action, with initiatives including permission to publicise concerns while off-duty and wearing campaign uniforms.
The ballot did not include measures authorising strike action or stoppages.
Protected industrial action started at 10am on Friday.
Mr Hallam said Ambulance Victoria had a social media policy which union members voted against.
"I could have been disciplined or might even have had my job terminated if I had said on Facebook I had a bad shift," he said.
"We were also banned from talking to newspapers, radio and other media.
"At this stage work continues for paramedics.
"We hope that Ambulance Victoria and the State Government continue to negotiate in good faith.
"But they are drastically far from an even playing field."
Mr Hallam said union members planned to wear their campaign uniform at Stawell Ambulance Station on Monday morning.