The Victorian Ambulance Union (VAU) has issued an ultimatum to Ambulance Victoria (AV) that we will have no choice but to lodge a dispute in the courts if the pre-rostering of surge workers before paramedics does not end.

Over recent weeks and months we have been advocating to both AV and Government to wind back the surge workforce arrangement as soon as possible. There is no question that there has been a need to provide a surge workforce during times of high sickleave and furlough during the pandemic. The volunteers who have stepped up deserve to be commended for their efforts and we sincerely thank them for their contribution.

However, our members have clearly stated that the strain of working alongside surge has taken its toll and is a key driver of absenteeism. The VAU have been provided with an overwhelming number of incidents where paramedics contacted AV and offered to fill shifts but were told that the shifts had already been filled by surge staff.

The surge workforce are employed as Ambulance Community Officers (ACO). The Ambulance Victoria Enterprise Agreement 2020 (Agreement) includes strict parameters around the use of ACOs, including:

  • Clause 40.1: The employment of ACOs is limited to areas outside the boundaries of the Metropolitan Region; and
  • Clause 40.4: ACOs may also be used to provide a response in circumstances where paramedics are not available to immediately respond and the Employer has taken reasonable measures to exhaust paramedic options.

By rostering ACOs to the Metropolitan Region and without taking reasonable measures to exhaust paramedic options (including in Rural areas), AV are in breach of the Agreement.

The VAU understand the pressure AV have been under as a result of the increase in workload due, in part, to the Covid-19 Pandemic. However, clear member feedback has been that the use of surge workers is having a serious impact on the mental health and wellbeing of our paramedics and contributing to absenteeism and workload pressures. The VAU will now have no choice but to lodge a dispute in the courts if the pre-rostering of surge workers before paramedics does not end by 30 June 2022.

Once again, we express our sincere gratitude to the surge workforce for their efforts. We know that we will see many of you beginning your careers as paramedics very soon. The VAU will continue with constructive negotiations to safely transition back to paramedic crewing on all paramedic shifts.

Members will be kept informed.

In Solidarity