AMBULANCE OFFICER / PARAMEDIC EBA UPDATE
Please brace yourselves for the very unexciting update following today’s EBA negotiation. The 10th meeting so far.
This meeting was cut short today at request of St John and so a number of agenda items were not covered including:
Return to Work policy
Reasonable Overtime / Shift Extensions
This meeting was again frustrating, with lots of meaningless circular discussion which achieved virtually nothing, and practically zero progress on the issues which our members feel are important. It also appeared that throughout the negotiations St John looked to us to solve their problems.
Paramedic Special Operations (PSOJ ‘On Call’ (SJA)
The AEAWA were asked for feedback (again) but as previously communicated it is impossible to provide feedback without concrete detail of the proposal. The PSO team have discussed the SJA proposal during the last week, and quite frankly the more this proposal is examined, the more questions arise as to exactly how this proposal will operate. The model currently appears unsustainable, and without concrete details of how this ‘On Call’ model will operate, we are unable to agree to this proposal. This situation is further complicated by the late and concurrent suggestion that St John plan to introduce a new staffed 4X4 ‘on road’ roster for PSO ‘at some point’, in addition to the proposed (but apparently separate) ‘On-Call’ component. It was highlighted to SJA that it is extremely difficult to understand the nuances and implications of an ‘On Call’ proposal without knowing what the eventual plan is. The possibility of a rostered PSO vehicle will of course have implications for any proposed ‘On Call’ system, and so St John need to put their cards on the table to progress this matter.
Furthermore, it was highlighted to SJA that the ‘On Call’ proposal would constitute a significant change in conditions, whereby PSO’s would be expected to work busy metro shifts, followed by being ‘On Call’ overnight, all for 0.5% of the SAO weekly base rate of pay. There is no consideration of fatigue, social life implications, nor the impact such on call rostering system would have on the ability to undertake secondments or country relief, or plan leave. It is our view, that St John have offered NO incentive for ‘On-Call’, and if St John want 24/7 coverage they need to roster fully paid staff to a 24/7 roster (which most likely will be fully funded externally anyway). Finally, PSO’s are a highly trained and highly deployable resource. As such, St John were requested to propose a dedicated classification for PSO’s under the agreement, with an appropriate pay scale commensurate with CSP rates.
Discussion took place regarding a proposal from both bargaining groups requesting a change to the uniform which would more clearly delineate career professional ambulance officers and paramedics from EMT/Volunteer and Event Health Officers. The AEAWA recognise that St John believe the current uniform is ‘branding ’ however this branding issue frequently results in the media giving false accounts of ‘paramedics’ attending patients in country locations etc. However, as we are sure you suspected, St John have declined to make changes that would differentiate between career / volunteer. St John argued that the community do not ‘pay attention’ to these things, however, we feel that this is exactly the issue. St John are happy to trade on the consistency of uniform to allow the community to think they receive a certain standard of care, when the reality is the level of clinical care and responsibility is markedly different (despite volunteers doing their best with the training they are provided).
The AEAWA enquired as to why officers are unable to order ‘coveralls’ (onesies). St John denied that they had been ‘removed’ because a certain executive did not like this item of uniform, and stated that this was ‘purely a supply issue’. However, AEAWA delegates responded by informing SJA that they had in fact contacted Yakka/Workwear Online and been informed that the ‘coveralls’ line item had ‘been deleted’. St John blamed the lack of progress with uniforms on the pandemic.
On the subject of manufacturing, the AEAWA believe St John should support local business and attempt to source nationally manufactured uniform products where possible (in addition to PPE and other consumables vulnerable to international supply chain issues), in accordance with St John core value of ‘shaping the community’, and of being ‘sensitive to their environment’.
The AEAWA argued for more appropriate uniform options suitable for pregnancy, and St John agreed that the planned uniform committee will manage this.
St John agreed to consider a climate friendly uniform specifically for North West officers but also a range of more uniform options for officers statewide which are more friendly to the prevailing weather conditions across the state. However, SJA again want to shift these EBA items to a separate committee.
Special Leave clause (AEAWA)
St John sought feedback in relation to their proposed special leave clause. The AEAWA identified that the proposed clause still allows only 6% of the total number of metropolitan employees in established vehicles completing on-road shifts. We reiterated our claim in relation to increasing the availability of special leave positions from the current 6% to a figure of 8% which we believe would offer St John a cost neutral (these offers have generally already accrued these hours) way for St John to facilitate improved work life balance for shift workers, and reduce ‘unplanned absence’.
The AEAWA recognise the approval of our claim to increase maximum special balance from +48 to +96. The AEAWA highlighted that the clause regarding forced payback of negative special leave balances is currently inconsistently applied at best, and leads to officers being surprised and unprepared for the docking of 50% of overtime. This clause either needs clarifying, or changed to provide a notice period for officers. St John agreed to clarify this section of the draft clause.
Special Leave Blackout periods (AEAWA)
The AEAWA questioned the current Special Leave blackout periods which seem quite arbitrary and often include days surrounding public holidays, not just the public holiday themselves. We are unsure if this is necessary or even fair, and requested SJA to provide data staffing over these Special Leave blackout periods.
Job Share (AEAWA)
St John presented their draft Job Share clause for consideration. The AEAWA are still digesting the significant detail provided in this clause and will respond in due course.
Secondments (SJA). The AEAWA responded to St John’s proposal to increase the length of secondments. At this stage we have serious reservations in allowing St John to alter this clause as we have numerous examples where SJA have circumvented the existing clause to extend secondments. However, minimal discussion took place on this agenda item and it will be re-tabled for a future negotiation meeting.
Managers on Road (SJA)
St John have recognised that the level of resistance to changing this clause was extremely high, and have therefore agreed to drop this clause from their claim.
Claims Regarding Career Progression and Recruitment Process
A reminder here that the AEAWA claim requested the current recruitment process be revised to be more fair and transparent. Currently advertised positions are filled through a process claimed to be ‘merit based’ process. The AEAWA committee believe that no matter what ‘scoring’ is achieved by an applicant for their previous qualifications, experience or training, the final decision always seems to be based purely on interview performance / personality alone. Today we argued for a system which also factors in other important variables and these should carry some weight in determining an applicants final ‘score’. We acknowledge that interview performance is an important variable, but we do not feel it should be the sole deciding factor. Many other state ambulance services assign points for various criteria and assessment processes, which carry through to the final interview stage, resulting in an overall score helping to determine the successful candidate. St John resisted change initially but we are determined to see improvements in fairness and transparency in terms of career progression and appointment.
Pre-Shift Checks Claims
SJA commenced discussions stating they have previously circulated a draft SOP regarding Pre-Shift checks, and sought feedback both on the SOP and our claim for paid Pre shift checks. The AEAWA are mindful that the introduction of paid pre-shift checks would potentially involve extending the length of their working day. For many of our members with childcare responsibilities or other family arrangements, this may negatively impact their ability to regularly be at work ‘early’.
Despite the fact that many of our members are already at work prior to the start of their shift, there is currently NO obligation to do this. Following feedback from our members, we have decided to pursue an alternate approach which we hope will see St John provide concrete instructions on what ‘start of shift checks’ (medication, ambulance equipment, vehicle compliance) are required before attending a case, and therefore indemnify officers in the event items of equipment are either missing or faulty, which later prove critical in the course of a case. This will be discussed in coming weeks and we will of course do our best to keep you informed.
The next meeting will be 23 June 2021.
AEAWA Negotiation Team