This morning the Victorian Ambulance Union Incorporated (VAU) informed the Victorian Government that we are planning to withdraw our support for the Medium Acuity Transport Service (MATS).

The VAU had previously welcomed this Government initiative in good faith as we believed that MATS would be:

  • an option for experienced members transitioning to retirement;
  • an alternate educational pathway for Graduate Ambulance Paramedics to enter the service; and
  • a transport option for medium acuity patients which will free up ALS and MICA crews to respond high acuity patients.
  • Following discussions with AV, the VAU were informed in writing on 23 July 2021 that:
    • GAP Level 1 terms and conditions will apply; and
    • Transition to retirement employees appointed to the program will maintain their current salary classification and other terms and conditions of their employment.

This written assurance made an agreement with AV about MATS easy as the terms and conditions of the enterprise agreement applied to the members working on MATS, in particular the requirement for GAPs to be provided with direct supervision and proper educational support.

The VAU was also provided with a copy of the expression of interest document which advised applicants:

As you will now be directly supervising a new employee, you will also receive the Sessional Clinical Instructor allowance of an additional $5.56 per hour / $222.40 per week (increases each February until February 2023 under the Ambulance Victoria Enterprise Agreement 2020).

On this basis, the VAU supported this initiative and have encouraged members to consider this as an option for transition to retirement. We have also spoken positively about this to our Graduate members prior to them accepting the position.

What has happened since?

The VAU have since been informed by members that AV have communicated to those working on MATS that they will no longer be paid the Clinical Instructor Allowance when working alongside Graduates.

Their reasoning – they are not Graduate Ambulance Paramedics (GAP), they are Graduate Bridging Paramedics (GBP) – therefore the CI allowance is not payable even though ‘GBPs’ still require direct supervision.

There is no classification in the Ambulance Victoria Enterprise Agreement 2020 (Agreement) for ‘GBP’ and the VAU has not been consulted about the introduction of a new classification called ‘GBP’. The classification we have in the Agreement is GAP which was the classification that AV clearly communicated would work on the MATS resource.

One or two things is occurring here:

  1. AV are refusing to pay paramedics, who are required to provide direct supervision to GAPs working on the MATS resource, with the appropriate CI allowance; and/or
  2. AV have introduced a new classification called GBP, which is a major change, without consultation in order to avoid paying the CI allowance.

Either option is a breach of the Agreement.

Members are encouraged to take the following steps:

  1. If you have signed a GAP contract, and have been assigned to the MATS resource, AV are not allowed to change your classification from GAP to GBP. The VAU have not been provided with a draft position description for GBP and do not agree to it being established. AV are contractually obliged to provide a GAP position to you.
  2. Members who are considering entering the transition to retirement arrangement on MATS should reconsider. You will be expected to work alongside a person who requires direct supervision (AV state that GBPs also require direct supervision) but because AV now state they are GBPs and not GAPs you will not be paid the CI allowance.
  3. If you have accepted a position on MATS as the senior paramedic, you have the right to either remain in this position or request a return to your previous role. While you are not being paid the CI allowance you are not required to provide any instruction to a GAP. There is also no obligation under the Agreement to provide instruction to a GBP as the classification does not exist.

This is an extremely disappointing approach for AV to take. In good faith, the VAU gave in-principle support to this Government funded initiative that on the surface appeared to be transparent, properly consulted and beneficial to members and the community. But it now appears AV have taken a very underhanded approach to avoid paying a $5.56 allowance, which is likely to threaten the success of the trial.

The VAU is considering its legal options and will keep members informed of next steps including for any underpayment claims to be made regarding the CI allowance.

The VAU will be communicating our concerns to prospective employees that AV appear to be stating that the MATS positions are not classified as GAP classifications under the Agreement.

In Solidarity