Around 1000 ambulance professionals employed by St John have voted to take a sophisticated series of strike actions to ensure patient safety is not put at risk.
From today, ambulance crews across the country will refuse to attend non-emergency event work in their fight for including shift recognition payments to reflect their unsociable and physically tolling seven day a week, rotating shift pattern.
St John is contracted to provide emergency ambulance services on behalf of the Ministry of Health and ACC.
"Our members, who are frontline emergency crews and whose pay packets are Government funded, are reporting concerns that their services are being offered up to cover private hire for sporting and other commercial events run by private business," says Transport, Logistics and Manufacturing Secretary Jared Abbott.
The crux of the operational history:
Typically St John had managed cover for event work through re-calling staff who were on their rostered days off. In more recent times St John had started to transfer crews off their rostered frontline duties and dispatched them to cover event work.
In some cases the frontline crew was then replaced with an off duty crew member or a casual employee.
On the face of it, this meant that private event operators were gaining preference of treatment over the public despite where the majority funding was coming from.
Jared says St John needs to be reminded of its operational obligations to everyday New Zealanders.
“St John is already being funded to provide emergency ambulance pre-hospital care so should not be sending frontline staff to private events, when we know we are short of ambulance professionals.”
He says St John seems to not want more Government assistance.
“It was particularly galling when ambulance chiefs had recently rejected calls to approach the Government and lobby for a fully funded service, rather than rely on volunteers and commercial activities.
“It's an indictment when you see an emergency health provider, unlike other frontline service providers, having to become beholden to commercial interests in preference to their contracted obligations.”
Ambulance crews are expected to commence their industrial action tomorrow following yet further stalled mediation talks last week with St John who seem unwilling to address the issues raised at the bargaining table.