Ambo News - November 2013

Ambulance officers discuss national issues in Brisbane

This year the National Council of Ambulance Union visited Brisbane to hold its AGM. Delegates from across the country met at United Voice Queensland’s head office to discuss the latest issues affecting ambulance officers across the country. Lucas Digney, a HSU delegate from Tasmania described the two day conference as “An opportunity to discuss national issues which affect us all. We can find out from each other ways and strategies to deal with these issues.” While Queensland state councillor Tony Dorin agreed and said “It’s a great opportunity to find out what’s going on between different states and more often than not we see the same issues and problems crop up across the country.” 

These issues were discussed at length during the conference as each state gave an account of what’s happening in the industry in their specific area. Rostering issues, professional recognition, enterprise bargaining agreements, meal breaks, attacks on conditions and pay, fatigue management and ramping were the major issues discussed by attendees. Alistair Shepherd, a delegate from Tasmania said “It seems the same issues crop up right across the board from ramping to resourcing. It’s important to have a national forum to discuss this.” 

For Queensland, the arbitration case, Campbell Newman’s attempts to destroy emergency services in the state and the possible privatisation of PTS were all on the agenda. Likewise in Victoria, members have a battle on their hands with Premier Dennis Naphtine with their Code Red campaign which has gained huge attention through social media, still continuing. While the major issue for members in the Northern Territory is the increased violence and aggressive behaviour towards ambulance officers. A number of motions were voted on and it was agreed to set up a Facebook page for the national organisation where members could find out more information and share their experiences.

A guide for union members on social media use

Recently, a number of United Voice members have been investigated for posts placed on Facebook, Twitter and other social media services which the QAS claim to be in breach of the Code of Conduct. Increasingly, we are seeing managers actively monitor what gets posted online about the Service and who is doing the posting. There is now a number of instances of union members being disciplined and even terminated for placing inappropriate material on social media. Despite the large number of cases, the QAS refuses to outline what is and is not acceptable material to post on social media so that the policy can be clear. 

With this in mind, United Voice has developed three “Hot Tips” to help make sure what you post on Facebook doesn’t have any unintended consequences for your employment. 

Tip 1: One of the best things you can do is remove references to the Queensland Ambulance Service as your employer from Facebook and take down photos of you in uniform. Many officers have gotten into hot water because the details of their employer are linked to their profile. So long as your profile indicates that you are a QAS employee, or contains images of you on the job, then you are acting as a representative of the QAS – and what you post could make you liable for disciplinary action. 

Tip 2: Don’t post, “check-in” or take photos and post them to social media whilst on duty. Social media posts are public and can be permanent. 

Tip 3: Set your profile settings to private. You want your mates to see what you are posting, not your boss. Keeping your profile set to “friends only” will help protect you against discipline based upon what you post. 

All this being said, social media is supposed to be just that, social. Don’t let your employer stop you from interacting with your friends on Facebook or sharing union campaigns. But when you do so, it’s worth thinking twice about who can view what you put up and what they might be thinking. 

If you do get into trouble with social media, or want more advice on appropriate use, contact the union office for assistance via our Ambo Hotline – 3291 4550.

More legislation changes affecting ambos 

Campbell Newman is introducing more changes to industrial relations legislation, inflicting even more pain on ambulance officers. United Voice members attended the legal affairs and community safety committee to speak about the impact of the latest law change on workers. They told the committee that the bill is nothing more than a resurrection of ‘WorkChoices’ despite the fact Tony Abbott said it was “Dead, buried and cremated”. 

The introduction of this legislation will remove protections contained in awards and collective agreements. Consultation between management and employees will be removed, while the law also takes away workers ability to further their claims through industrial action. For ambulance officers, the greatest concern is around fatigue management and rostering. The bill proposes to prohibit provisions about flexible rostering arrangements which will inevitably affect member’s ability to balance work and family responsibilities. 

State councillor, Michael Freeman said “If important fatigue management and rostering provisions are removed from agreements we feel it will only be a matter of time before this will lead to injury or even death of an officer, patient or member of the public.” He’s also calling on his fellow ambulance officers to attend a ‘Rally for Rights’ on Tuesday 19th November at Parliament House at 5.30pm. Mr Freeman said “Ambulance officers are on the frontline every day. The attacks by the Newman Government on our rights and conditions have gone too far and we need to send a message to government that enough is enough. That is why I will be attending the rally for rights.”

Arbitration hearings conclude 

Your arbitration hearing is now complete and now we await the determination of the Commission, which is not expected until early next year. It was a long and tedious process since the hearing began in June, only wrapping up on the 25th of October, with the hearing of final submissions. Throughout final submissions, the barrister for the QAS made constant references to alleged widespread “fraud” and “impropriety” of paramedics. QAS also argued that the government’s wages policy – of offering employees 2.2% only must be the principal consideration for the QIRC in making its decision. 

While the barrister for United Voice argued on behalf of union members that QAS employees deserve and are entitled to a pay rise above the government offer, commensurate with cost of living increases and the increasing skill and knowledge required to provide the service to the community. It was also argued that QAS should not be able to change the 13 week roster projection with 3 weeks’ notice as this will unduly interfere with the personal and family circumstances of QAS employees. Finally, that paramedics should keep meal windows and the meal overtime penalty so as to ensure QAS continues to strive to provide meal breaks to employees. 

Patient Transport in Metro South 

Last week, the union was made aware that the process of “contestability” is now fully underway for Patient Transport Services in Metro South. This is a major threat to the employment conditions for members in the PTS and all ambos in Queensland. 

To add insult to injury, the union did not receive details of the plans via a letter or even a phone call from the QAS. Instead, tender documents were posted by Queensland Health on a Government website and emailed to interested private providers at 1am!

Campbell Newman says that privatisation is about providing a more “efficient” service for the community. What this really means is shifting the focus of the work we do away from the public good and towards private profit. This attitude is bad for ambulance officers and the patients who they assist every day. 

United Voice members will not let the government privatise our Patient Transport Service by stealth. We are seeking further information from the government about its plans and will continue to fight against the privatisation and downgrading of our service into the future.

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