Ministers Ducking As St John Ambulance Service Threatens Cuts And Wage Freezes

Published: Mon 4 Mar 2024 11:55 AM
Hato Hone St John staff are being left in the dark after being told by their employer during collective bargaining that no further funding is available to increase wages, despite promises from the National-NZ First coalition agreement to "renegotiate the Crown funding agreement with St John with a view to meet a greater portion of their budget."
Faye McCann, FIRST Union national organiser for ambulance services, said union members were frustrated and confused by the apparent disconnect between St John and the Government’s funding commitment, and ambulance officers would not accept a pay freeze during a cost of living crisis that already meant wages were slipping behind rates of inflation and comparable heath professional remuneration.
Ms McCann said FIRST Union had repeatedly sought to meet with Ministers Shane Reti and Casey Costello from the National Party and New Zealand First ( LINK) over the last month ahead of upcoming bargaining with St John and were concerned to have received no meaningful response despite Budget funding deadlines growing closer and the recent claims made by St John.
"Ambulance officers and emergency communication staff are being left in the dark and completely undervalued by the Government that substantially funds St John to do the work New Zealanders depend on," said Ms McCann.
"St John have claimed that there’d need to be cuts to the service to fund wage increases, and Te Whatu Ora is apparently telling them that there’ll be no additional funding for remuneration, so we’re at a confusing impasse."
"There’s a shortage of ambulance officers and emergency communication staff in Aotearoa and the people who do the job deserve more for what their work entails. They’re overdue for meaningful pay increases but patience is running out and members will not tolerate threats of service cuts."
"We desperately need to recruit more skilled ambulance officers and emergency communication staff to meet current demands, but St John will lose experienced staff overseas and miss out on new trainees if wages continue to stagnate."
Ms McCann says clarity on the situation from the Government is urgent and overdue, with St John staff unwilling to accept wage freezes and St John, despite their threats, being practically unable to decrease services while the service is already threadbare and over-stretched in many parts of the country.
"New Zealanders need to feel truly confident of a responsive ambulance service that can attend to them immediately during the times when they need it most - these negotiations so far would not fill anyone with confidence," said Ms McCann.
Ms McCann said Government funding for operational costs in St John’s last financial year was 82.4 %, with the remaining 17.6% received from other income streams like donations, bequeaths, fundraising events and commercial activities.
"The Crown needs to fully fund ambulance operational costs - talk to any member of the public and you will hear them say that our ambulance service should be fully funded by government, with many convinced that it should come under full governmental control, like Fire Emergency Services. FIRST Union supports this view as the current funding model is broken and needs urgent reform," said Ms McCann.
Over 1100 workers employed by Hato Hone St John are FIRST Union members.

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