8 Feb 2018

Joint plea for more funding for ambulance services

5:54 am on 8 February 2018

The union representing ambulance staff and Wellington Free Ambulance are considering a joint plea for more government funding.

Wellington Free Ambulance.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Amalgamated Workers Union and the ambulance service have been in negotiations for a new collective agreement since mid-last year.

Since then union members have rejected three offers from Wellington Free, and been to mediation twice.

Interim secretary Wayne Mclaughlin said the service was unable to meet staff demands of a four percent pay rise per year, for two years.

Wellington Free couldn't afford to meet union demands because ambulance services received funding for about 75 percent of their costs, and Wellington Free had to fundraise $6 million each year to make up the shortfall.

Its chief executive Mike Grant said while the organisation was happy to join forces with the union in asking for more money, the organisation was in a financially secure position.

He said trained paramedics were being hired as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) after graduating, and the difference between the two positions was about $9000.

The offer being negotiated related to what was fair and reasonable, not the organisation's finances, he said.

Mr Mclaughlin said Wellington Free Ambulance had approached central government for additional funding for 15 years, but was always knocked back.

"This year we are prepared with Wellington Free to both approach the government for additional funding.

"I think the membership feel if we roll over and accept an inferior offer the central government will say ... 'oh well, they've copped it for so many years let them cop it again', whereas this year they're saying enough's enough."

Mr Mclaughlin said paramedics wanted to see a recognition of their skills and the additional responsibilities they were undertaking, while EMTs wanted to have a guarantee of progression up to paramedic levels.

Mr Mclaughlin said he would wait and see what the survey results were before the union made its next move.

He said the issue needed be brought to the attention of Wellington and Wairarapa residents who benefit from the free service.

The Ministry of Health said funding for the Wellington Free service would increase by $1.7 million in 2017/18.

It was confident Wellington Free Ambulance and its staff would continue to deliver an effective and timely service to its patients.

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