The strike by the Australian Paramedics Association (NSW) (APA NSW) members today (December 1) is a clarion call that resonates beyond the realm of industrial action.
It's a profound statement about value and values. It's about how society recognises those who commit their lives to public welfare.
NSW's paramedics, the first responders to crises, are drawing a line not just in the sand, but across the heart of the community they serve.
The pay disparity the state's paramedics face is more than a financial wound, it's an insult to their dedication.
In a profession where every second is a matter of life or death, where the psychological toll of trauma is an occupational hazard, financial insecurity should not be an added burden.
Emergency service workers are synonymous with salvation.
According to a Health Quarterly report published by the Bureau of Health Investigation (BHI), ambulance response has shown an upward trend of 7.1 per cent compared with last year - the highest of any quarter since BHI began reporting in 2010.
This strike action is a reflection of a broader societal ailment - a persistent undervaluing of critical public services. The evidence is stark; the APA (NSW) has highlighted a distressing trend: an alarming percentage of paramedics are on the brink of burnout, with many contemplating exit strategies.
This is not just a potential drain on resources; it is a looming crisis that threatens the very fabric of our emergency healthcare system.
The government's proposed 4 per cent pay increase is a misstep that fails to keep pace with the escalating cost of living, rendering it inadequate and demonstrating a disconnect from the realities on the ground.
Paramedics are not seeking largesse. We are demanding justice.
We are calling for our remuneration to reflect the critical nature of our work and the high stakes we navigate daily.
A robust response to the paramedics' grievances is not optional; it is essential.
The government must recognise that a failure to act decisively now could result in irrevocable damage to community trust and paramedic morale.
The alarming PMES survey report released this month by the government found that fewer than one in four paramedics did not feel burnt out by their work, and that 37 per cent planned to leave within five years.
The long-term consequences of this standoff extend beyond the immediate crisis. With such unsustainable attrition rates, we're not just losing skilled workers, we're risking the collapse of an essential service in NSW that protects the most vulnerable.
Real change is needed - change that goes beyond token gestures and translates into substantial policy reform and tangible improvements in the working conditions of paramedics.
As NSW faces this unprecedented industrial action by paramedics, it is incumbent upon all stakeholders to heed this wake-up call.
The paramedics' strike is not merely about the now; it is about setting a precedent for the future, ensuring that the backbone of our emergency services is strong and supported.
It is a fight for respect, for fairness, and ultimately, for the assurance that when the sirens wail, we are not sounding an alarm for the collapse of a once robust system but heralding a service that is valued and secure.
Emergency workers are more than just employees; we're part of the intricate machinery that keeps society functioning and safe.
It's time for the NSW government to step up and address this issue head-on. The community's trust and safety are on the line. It's time to go beyond applause and offer paramedics the support and compensation we urgently need.
In the end, the message is simple: take care of those who care for you.
Paramedics are the bedrock of our emergency response system, and, as we stand on December 1 demanding what is rightly ours, the community must not fail to echo our call.
The time for acknowledgement and action is now. Let's not wait until regret is our only response.
- Brett Simpson is president of the APA (NSW)