Ambos slam cuts to cover
PARAMEDICS are facing a battle against the State Government over a proposed overhaul of the NSW Ambulance Service Death and Disability Scheme.
The Health Services Union has been holding meetings across NSW in recent weeks to discuss the controversial decision by NSW Ambulance to either downgrade or cut the coverage for paramedics.
Under the current scheme, introduced in 2008, paramedics contribute 1.8% of their base salary and the NSW Government contributes 3.6%.
The scheme, however, includes a clause for the government to hold an immediate review of the Death and Disability Award if their contribution exceeds 3.6% of salaries, which the government says has been reached.
NSW Ambulance says the award is no longer financially sustainable due to an increase in group life insurance premiums and has offered two new options for scheme members.
A HSU spokesman told The Advocate that paramedics are being asked to choose between a scheme that does not include disability cover and where income protection would last only two to three years, or one where they would have to find their own private cover.
He said both options entailed poor replacement benefits, and allowances would not cover sky-high premiums paramedics would be charged due to the dangerous nature of their jobs.
Concerns have been backed by Australian Paramedics Association secretary Gary Wilson who said neither option was viable.
"For paramedics in rural centres their reliance on overtime pay to cover costs means this income protection scheme will really harm them," Mr Wilson said.
"They are in some of the most dangerous work caring for the community. But who is caring for the carers?" he said.
A NSW Ambulance spokesman said staff covered by the award had been advised to obtain quotes on income protection insurance prior to voting on the options.