St John Ambulance staff to strike over pay and rosters

Source: 1News

St John Ambulance staff have voted to strike following disputes over pay and shift work.

First Union says staff will walk off the job on November 25 after St John backtracked on their agreement to introduce shift pay and recognise night and weekend work.

"At the time, St John said they couldn’t afford the payment, so workers agreed to a start date of 1 July 2020,” First Union organiser Sarah Stone says.

“In mid-June this year, St John claimed again that they still couldn’t afford to provide it, but two weeks ago they received a $28 million per year funding boost from the Government, which more than covers the cost of shift pay.

"However, St John are still refusing to pay the agreed rate.”

The proposal to cut the salary of emergency medical dispatchers and call takers by $10,000 per annum and the removal of minimum staffing level, hours and places are the other reasons the union cited for taking industrial action.

"Union members are concerned that just a reference to ‘online rosters’ will not offer the same protection as having them written into the collective agreement. Members are deeply concerned that it may also result in public safety issues,” says Stone.

"There has been an erosion of emergency ambulance capacity in a number of locations despite growing demand year on year - and ambulance professionals consider it only a matter of time before it costs even more lives."

Stone says staff are wanting St John to honour its agreement it had signed with staff.

"Shift pay was agreed to last year with widespread public support and political support across all parties.

"Union members are telling us that they are taking this action because they are tired of the complete lack of respect shown from St John."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked about the strike at her post-Cabinet address this afternoon.

"We’ve been responding to some of the funding issues facing St John. We did that in the last term of Government acknowledging that, as a result of a range of quirks of the system, they have not been ever fully funded by any Government, but we have increased support.

"I do need to be mindful of not inserting myself into a pay dispute," she said.

When asked about emergency services being available during the strike, Ardern said: "I would expect service to be maintained and that’s critical, alongside St John to assure that service is maintained."

Talks between the union and St John are ongoing.

1 NEWS has contacted St John for comment.