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Union ‘insulted’ by offer

First Union has called the Wellington Free Ambulance’s pay offer an insult. PHOTO/FILE

Wellington Free Ambulance

Bargaining between the Wellington Free Ambulance and First Union ambulance officers came to a sudden halt on Thursday after the union described a pay offer as a 6 per cent pay cut for frontline responders.

Strike action was still under consideration, the union said.

Union ambulance organiser Faye McCann said on Thursday that the latest offer suggested a 1.5 per cent increase in wages when the consumer price index was at 7.3 per cent.

“Following that insult, they ended our bargaining meetings after just one day, ignored all of our members’ claims and used delay tactics to force ambulance officers to wait another 10 weeks before they could get back to the negotiating table.

She said the members were waiting for the upcoming fundraiser drive, but still weren’t confident the donations would make their way to frontline officers.

First Union hoped for more movement in the next bargaining opportunity in September. PHOTO/MARY ARGUE

“With the fire crisis continuing, it’s clear that first responders, like firefighters and ambulance officers, aren’t being supported to do their jobs properly.”

Wairarapa’s branch of WFA has 30 staff members, including paramedics, drivers and management.

McCann said Wairarapa’s ambulance officers felt under resourced.

“With winter illness, these workers haven’t had a break.

“After struggles with covid, no one was expecting the process to result in just a 1.5 per cent increase.

“Last year’s bargaining was quite a long process so they were hoping it would be quicker.

“Wairarapa has a tight sense of community and they’re passionate about the work they do. To strike is a tough decision for our workers because it affects members of the public.

“They already have trouble getting workers to move to the region.”

She said there was a lack of appreciation.

“It’s hard to see St John getting more pay, and the DHBs made a point to thank their staff over the tough winter season. Everyone in the health sector is under the pump and Wellington Free Ambulance hasn’t done anything. The ambulance staff hoped they would be more appreciated.”

First Union hoped for more movement in the next bargaining opportunity in September.

“If we don’t get movement from Wellington Free, we will consider strike action.”

The Wellington Free Ambulance service is partially funded by a charity funding model which McCann said was failing both patients and staff.

“Our emergency health services require well-trained and experienced ambulance officers, but low pay and difficult conditions mean many people are immediately turned off from the profession.

“Fixing that starts with keeping people in the job by paying them properly for what is one of the most challenging frontline professions in the country.”

Wellington Free Ambulance did not comment on the specific details of the offer.

“Wellington Free Ambulance is in the early stages of the bargaining process with First Union and looks forward to continuing the conversation started in July at the next meeting. It is not appropriate to comment on specific details of offers or claims.

“We would like to reassure the people of Greater Wellington and Wairarapa that we remain committed to meeting the needs of people facing an emergency due to an accident or illness.”

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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