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Ambulance Officer/Paramedic EBA Update

By 30 April 2021May 3rd, 2021No Comments

Dear members,

Your negotiation team met today with senior management for the 6th scheduled EBA meeting. Please forgive the lengthy post below, there was a lot of discussion at today’s meeting, though sadly it was mostly unproductive.

This meeting again contained NO significant discussion of the Clinical Appropriate Model of Care (CAMC), the proposed restructure of our workforce which your negotiation team remain fundamentally opposed. As a reminder, your committee see this ‘CAMC’ as serving to devalue the paramedic profession, lower industry wages and create division and resentment among our members. We also feel it is not our place nor our right to ‘sell’ the conditions of future paramedics, whilst we continue to enjoy ‘grandfathered’ conditions. Should the CAMC be allowed to progress, St John will have NO incentive to retain the role of ‘Ambulance Paramedic’ when they can simply grow the proportion of ‘Qualified Paramedics’ who will perform the same work, on the same shifts, with the same qualification, for roughly $30,000 less per annum.

Below is a summary of the topics covered today:

Casual Paramedics
The AEAWA provided a response to an agenda item listed as ‘undertaking’ clause, which you will remember from last fortnight was a thinly veiled attempt to introduce more casual staff into our workforce by changing wording within the ‘Casual’ clause of the EBA to allow anyone with the designation ‘Paramedic’ to become casual, regardless of whether they are a current employee or ‘AP1’. The AEAWA rejected the proposed wording changes that would have allowed this. Having a large proportion of workers who are casual solely benefits St John. They cease to be liable for annual leave and sick leave payments, and can adjust their workforce to meet ‘supply and demand’. Casual employees reduce the bargaining power of our workforce, and it is an unfair arrangement for those Paramedics who simply want stable, permanent employment, a necessity to obtain a mortgage or rental application.

Job Share – Discussion
Further discussion occurred with St John about enabling access to job share in country location. Despite reaching agreement last fortnight to re-write the Job Share clause, St. John sought further clarification about exactly what the bargaining teams want in relation to amending this clause. Again the AEAWA explained that there is no set mechanism for country officers to enter job share arrangements, and that the rare ad-hoc arrangements which have been successfully established were themselves extremely difficult to establish. There is a general lack of transparency and equity in the current clause, and the AEAWA seek a completely reworded document, which we hope will benefit both Metro and Country officers who wish to enter into Job Share arrangements.

CEP – Plan for this year
St John confirmed that this years CEP will be two days of ‘face to face’ classroom based training (pending any COVID restrictions which might develop).
St. John reject the claim for any additional CEP days. St John state that extra time may be provided for training as and when required (eg for Stryker training)

Rosters Discussion
Emergency Roster (St John claim)
St. John wish to introduce a clause that would allow the organisation to change a roster in response to a perceived emergency (not necessarily a declared emergency under law) which they believe may impact on their ability to deliver an ambulance service, the examples they used repeatedly were ‘heat wave’ and ‘storm’.

Despite the fact St. John currently struggle to deliver an ambulance service even in the absence of an emergency event, the AEAWA believe that, in the event of an actual emergency within our community or internationally, St John would be inundated with offers of assistance from the workforce who would be more than willing to fly statewide, interstate, or internationally and happily work alternate shift patterns to help out. We feel there is no need to introduce a clause to empower St John to do this, and if it were worded incorrectly it would be open to abuse by St John, e.g a ‘ramping emergency’ requiring officers to be forced to work on days off, or change shifts.

Crews to be allocated time to check vehicle and medication prior to being made operational (AEAWA claim)
The AEAWA highlighted that there is an ever growing list of items to check on the Daily Equipment & Medication Check, including 27 medications, a safe S8 check, approximately 25 equipment and device checks, Corpuls checks, and duress alarm checks. Some discussion took place regarding outdated notions of ‘embarrassment checks’, and it was put to St John that many items of equipment can cause acute embarrassment and potential patient harm if they are not present or not working (for instance a missing size 2 iGel or inoperative suction could be extremely ‘embarrassing’).

St. John have operated on the goodwill of their workforce for many many years, on officers who routinely arrive 20-30 minutes before each shift to ensure their vehicle is operational and correctly stocked. This time is unpaid, and St John benefit by having their crews able to deliver a high standard of care and being able to respond within minutes of the start of their shift. The negotiation team explained that the goodwill which has enabled this to occur has diminished in recent years, and that modern ambulances, with over 300 separate stocked items, deserve allocated, paid time to be checked.

Allocated, Paid Meal break during shift (AEAWA)
The AEAWA highlighted that WA is one of the last states in Australia NOT to provide its staff with paid breaks and allocated rest breaks. To illustrate:

The Ambulance and Patient Transport Award, which provides a National framework/guide for standard ambulance conditions provides for meal breaks.
The New South Wales State Ambulance Award provides for two paid 30 minute crib breaks where officers are working a roster of 12 hour or more.
The Ambulance Victoria Certified Agreement provides for 2 x 30 minutes PAID meal breaks for shifts of more than 10 and up to 14 hours. Ambulance Victoria also provide two ten minute rest breaks each day, counted as time worked (ie paid)
The South Australian Ambulance service are entitled to 20 minutes paid breaks
Queensland Ambulance are entitled to two unpaid meal breaks of not less than 30 minutes for shifts in excess of 10 hours in duration.
Tasmania Ambulance are entitled to 2 x 10 minute paid breaks
Northern Territory receive 1 x 30 minute meal break

The negotiation team believe St John WA, a company which describes itself as a ‘leader in ambulance’, take steps at this EBA to catch up with the other jurisdictional ambulance services in all other states and territories, and provide paid meal breaks.

A by-product of this claim for paid meal breaks, arguably as important, is that for an ambulance service to have sufficient ambulance resources to schedule crews onto meal breaks, they will ALSO need to maintain a minimum number of crews and have sufficient standby capacity to make this happen. It is intended that a missed or broken meal break would attract a financial penalty.

Remove Default Roster Assignment (2,2,4) (St John claim)
St. John wish to remove the default assignment to the 224 shift pattern.
St. John wish to have no assignment to a particular shift pattern or colour.
St. John wish to put more people onto day shift, straight from Induction or Direct Entry onto day ambulance, to align with demand 1000-2200, which in turn will mean less crews on night shift.
St. John presented some ‘reasoning’ behind this claim. They allege that such a change is necessary due to ‘increasing demand’ for service. St. John repeatedly state they ‘want to match supple and demand’. St. John showed Business Intelligence department data which shows where spikes and troughs occur throughout the day.
The AEAWA acknowledged that peaks and troughs indeed occur throughout the day. We also acknowledge that there are often ‘spikes’ in demand. St. John were however reminded that we are an emergency service, not just a business. And with an emergency service, supply should exceed demand. Maintaining a sufficient standby capacity will negate the problems with ‘spikes’ in demand.

The Acting Finance Director stated that the Health Department no longer support a 50% standby capacity, they are looking at perhaps 36% standby capacity adjusted to account for 40% for ramping. The AEAWA will be writing to WA Health to confirm this position regarding standby capacity.

The AEAWA reject this proposal outright, seeing this as an attack on certainty of shift pattern and results in a purely advantageous arrangement for St John, and a further erosion on the 224 shift pattern. As with other St John claims below, which seek increase ‘flexibility, agility and responsiveness’ we feel the solution to current pressures is to extract yet more work from a workforce already at maximum productivity, by eroding conditions hard fought and won.

Include ability to move permanent shift for all classifications (St John claim)

St. John propose to have the ability to move people across shift patterns and colours without prior agreement from Officer. They claim this will be required to support the ‘Clinical Appropriate Model of Care’ mix between ‘Qualified Paramedics’ ‘Intern Paramedics’ and ‘Ambulance Paramedics’, and also ‘balance’ staffing numbers.

St. John allege they often have trouble filling demand vehicles (4X4) with officers on a voluntary basis, and so would also like the ability to force people onto different shift patterns and colour.

The AEAWA expressed disbelief that their would be any difficulty in filling day ambulances, and certainly, if they made these ‘demand ambulances’ permanent positions St John would be knocked down in the rush to fill these vehicles.

The AEAWA clearly and unequivocally reject this proposed ability to move people across shift colours and patterns. The ability to know what shift you will be working in 6, 9 or 27 months is essential for planning and work / life balance.

The AEAWA suggested that St John consider offering an incentive for staff to move shifts temporarily or permanently rather than encouraging via certified agreement the arbitrary movement of officers, which would create a workplace where NO certainly of working days would exist beyond next 8 weeks, no ability to plan for birthdays, school events or holidays with any certainty.

Overtime crews to be released at first opportunity (AEAWA)
This proposal is similar to the Reasonable Overtime clause the AEAWA seek to introduce. Ramped crews who have finished their shift have FINISHED their shift. They are entitled to go home should they want to, and so St John need to organise for them to be relieved at the first available opportunity. We feel this is fairly straightforward and not an unreasonable expectation.

Expansion of 224 Crews (AEAWA)
The AEAWA propose to establish a ratio of 1 x 224 to 1.5 x 4X4. This proposal will support and strengthen the core 224 roster, hopefully making 224 sustainable. Night shift coverage has been eroded year after year as St John seek to ‘maximise KPIs’ by putting on more and more day vehicles on, while neglecting nights. It is worth noting that DFES do not complain about the 224 roster because they are adequately resourced. DFES recognise that emergencies can occur 24/7, and so they maintain cover at mostly equal levels day and night.

St John will of course fight this proposal, but we remain in discussions.

Spare Officers to receive Allowance/Extra Payment (AEAWA)
The AEAWA propose the introduction of an allowance for each shift worked by an officer who is rostered spare. This is intended to compensate them for the inconvenience of working in different locations each shift, with different partners, and at short notice. It also serves as a ‘disincentive’ to the organisation to make officers spare when vacancies exist on the roster.

Spare Officers to be rostered to home station (AEAWA)
The AEAWA wish to see spare officers rostered to the Home Depot (the depot closest to their home address). The AEAWA frequently receive complaints from members who are driving past several depots to their ‘rostered spare’ depot, only to be sent back to a depot they drove past earlier. This proposal would see an officer rostered spare to their Home Depot, where they can then be tasked to an alternate place of work if necessary.

Allocated Positions Discussion

No new Allocated Positions (St John)
St John propose NOT to create any new allocated positions as they bring new vehicles online.
They propose that currently the existing allocated positions will remain unaffected.
‘Flexibility and agility’ is the claimed motivation, and St. John want complete rostering flexibility to ‘meet the needs of the community’ by matching demand to supply.
St. John claim that creating any future AP/AP positions on a new vehicle (eg CEN24) would be problematic ‘when the CAMC model rolls out.’.
St. John want to reassure current employees that currently designated allocated positions would still be filled when vacancies arise. But any new positions created would NEVER be filled permanently.

The AEAWA again reject this attack on conditions. The committee frequently hear that one of the most stressful components of our workplace is rostering, and that roster change period causes significant angst and frustration. Having a permanent depot with a permanent partner provides stability, consistency, and support, and we will not support changes which would reduce the number of members who can enjoy this condition. We also feel permanency helps bolster morale, reducing patient led complaints and staff book-offs.

27/47 Clause (St John and AEAWA)
St John seek to remove the clause whereby they are required to consider making the 27 and 47 vehicles permanent, where they have been in place for 12 months.

The AEAWA reject this, highlighting the fact that St. John ALREADY fail to comply with the existing clause, and that there have been many 27 and 47 vehicles which have consistently been rostered for several years, which still have not been made permanent. The AEAWA will not entertain the weakening of this already weak clause, and in fact seek to strengthen and enforce it. The AEAWA counter the St John claim by insisting St John comply with the existing obligations under the clause.

Compliance with Station Manager Clause (AEAWA)
The AEAWA argue it has been over 6 years since St John last recruited any SM’s.
St. John formally commit to recruiting and filling the vacant SM positions to provide career opportunities for staff.

Rostered Away from Allocated Position, Shift or Colour (St John)
St. John wish to change the current clause which allows them to roster officers away from their permanent depot for 16 weeks, to allowing them to be rostered away from BOTH permanent depot AND permanent SHIFT for 16 weeks! It was argued by your committee that those officers on Blue shift with a planned Christmas off, may suddenly find themselves moved to Green shift for the Christmas roster. Again, this was rejected.

Remove Requirement to fill or create new Allocated Positions (St John)
St. John, as in several other clauses above, seek to remove the requirement for permanency.
Again, this was a clearly and unequivocally rejected by both bargaining groups.

Consultative Committee (AEAWA)
The AEAWA seek to introduce an external arbiter from the Fair Work Commission to participate in the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC). The reason behind this is that the JCC meetings have many, many items on each agenda which are raised repeatedly but which are never resolved by St John. At a previous Fair Work Commission attendance, the offer was made for a commissioner to attend and ‘adjudicate’ to ensure consultation truly occurred and that promised outcomes are completed. St. John of course rejected this claim, but will take it on notice and consider the implications.

Introduction of Change (AEAWA)
The AEAWA committee provided a draft clause for consideration which we hope will restrict the ability of St John to introduce new Policy, new SOPs, and changes to Policy without consultation.

Dispute Settling Procedure (AEAWA)
The AEAWA seek to expedite the process of dispute resolution, which is currently long winded, time consuming and encourages unnecessary delay.
St. John agree the process is long winded and will examine ways to streamline.

Night Shift Payment (AEAWA)
The AEAWA seek to introduce a night shift payment where the shift falls on either a Friday night ($100) or Saturday night of ($200). To encourage completion of the full set of 4 shifts, the payments would only occur where people complete the whole set.

The next meeting is on the 12th May 2021.

Please be aware that the all parties have only just finished outlining their respective claims (we still need to explore Special Ops claims), so this negotiation is very likely to be a very drawn out process, especially as it includes ‘unprecedented’ proposed restructuring of our workforce, and significant attacks on our conditions.

It is not unusual for negotiations to go on for several years (NT ambulance has been in negotiations since 2018), and so it is important for all of us to remain focussed on the long term, and to not be coerced into agreeing to changes that would cause irrevocable damage to conditions. Once conditions are lost they rarely, if ever return. Please talk with your colleagues and ensure they know the stakes at the table, and how damaging these proposals in the CAMC would be to our profession. If they are not with either Association or Union, please encourage them to sign up with someone.

Please feel free to contact a delegate with any questions

Kind regards

AEAWA Negotiation Team