TAMWORTH paramedics are glad to have their local MP in their corner, as they fight to save their entitlements.
Kevin Anderson met with Health Minister Jillian Skinner about the changes to paramedics’ death and disability cover, and asked her to consider a “sliding scale” return to work support program, rather than a two year benchmark.
Under the new death and disability scheme, which came into effect on August 20, paramedics will receive a payout of about $123,000 if they suffer a career-ending injury, as part of a two-year income-protection plan.
Under the previous death and disability scheme, paramedics in their 20s and 30s received up to $685,000.
Mr Anderson met with more than 20 angry paramedics last month, who “felt the new scheme would disadvantage them”.
“I am focused on ensuring that any paramedic injured at work is supported and that means, financially as well providing a clear path to return to work,” Mr Anderson said.
“Depending on the level of injury, there may be times where an injured person on a return to work program is able to go back to work sooner rather than later. Or it may be the case where more time is needed to rehabilitate.
“In some cases they may not go back to their original job but be able to make a meaningful contribution in some other health related role.”
Health Services Union New England Sub-branch president Dave Lucietto said it sounded like the wheels were slowly starting to turn.
“It's a bit of traction for sure, but I think we are still only in two-wheel drive at the moment,” Mr Lucietto said.
Mr Lucietto wasn't sure what nitty-gritty details of Mr Anderson's sliding scale proposal were, but said it was a “positive start”.
“At the end of the day, which ever package is agreed on, it needs to be comparable to the police scheme,” he said.
“Something that affords a greater return to work policy, that allows for extended time away from work if required and the financial support that goes with that.”
Mr Lucietto hoped Minister Skinner would invite the union to the negotiating table to discuss potential options.
“That's how it's got to work, we are here to represent paramedics and their families, and we want to make sure they are looked after,” he said.
The Leader asked Minister Skinner if she would consider Mr Anderson’s sliding scale option.
“The NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) determined the Ambulance Death and Income Protection Benefits Interim State Award in May,” Ms Skinner said. “The Award has a 12 month term. As an interim award, there are measures for its review in the IRC in 12 months.”