Horsham paramedics slam State Government pay dispute tactics

Horsham paramedics have spoken out against the State Government after a letter to the editor from Health Minister David Davis appeared in Monday's Mail-Times.

Horsham paramedics have spoken out against the State Government after a letter to the editor from Health Minister David Davis appeared in Monday's Mail-Times.

HORSHAM paramedics are furious with the State Government's latest tactics in a bitter two-year pay dispute.

Horsham branch paramedic Herb Jenkins, who has been in the job for more than 33 years, said he chose to speak out after a letter to the editor from Health Minister David Davis appeared in Monday's Mail-Times.

The letter claimed paramedics' salary packages exceeded $100,000 for 148 days of work a year.

"I don't want to be walking down the street and having people think I earn that sort money - it's just so wrong," Mr Jenkins said.

"Why sit by and let him write this in the paper and give the public an impression that's wrong?"

Fellow Horsham branch paramedic Matt Perry and Mr Jenkins showed the Mail-Times their pay slips and group certificates, which showed their base salary was significantly less than Mr Davis's claim.

The government figure includes built-in overtime, superannuation, fringe benefit tax exemptions and rolled-in rate.

The government has run full-page advertisements in the Mail-Times and metropolitan papers with the heading 'A fair deal for paramedics'.

Mr Perry said he found the advertisements misleading and offensive.

"We want to get this pay dispute over and done with and return to focusing on our jobs, which is providing the best pre-hospital care to the Wimmera and Victorian community," he said.

"We really appreciate the great support the public has shown us but we feel we can no longer stand by and read about or listen to the lies being published by this government."

Mr Perry said their current working conditions needed to be maintained due to the stressful nature of the job.

"I'm in my sixth year in the job and one-third of my group of 60 or 70 people who started with me have quit," he said.

"That includes one person who committed suicide apparently due to the stresses of the job."

Mr Jenkins said a clause in the government's pay deal would force paramedics to undertake four weeks rural relieving, with no limit to where in Victoria they would be sent.

"We've chosen to work at the Horsham branch for a reason and they're trying to kick you out of there and place you around like pawns on a chessboard," he said.

Both men said the entire branch supported the position of the union in the dispute.

They said Wimmera patients had been supportive.

"The people in the back of ambulances get what we're on about," Mr Jenkins said.

The government's latest pay offer is a six per cent pay rise in the first year followed by three per cent in each of the two years after that.

But Mr Perry said because of the length of the dispute, paramedics had not had a pay rise for two years and accepting the 12 per cent increase would equate to 2.4 per cent over five years.

The government's public sector wage increase policy is 2.5 per cent a year.

Mr Jenkins also took issue with a claim in the minister's letter that paramedics received 10 weeks of annual leave. "We're not looking for sympathy, we're just trying to let the public know the truth," he said.

"The public reading that thinks 'oh gee - 10 weeks leave', but it's there for a reason."

Mr Perry said paramedics received the standard four weeks of annual leave plus one extra week for doing shift work.

He said the remainder was for accrued days off as they generally worked 40 to 42 hours a week.

"Unlike plumbers or builders you can't give us every second Monday off because it's a 24-hour service - we have to cover it," he said.

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