Unionised ambulance officers, who are now in their third month of industrial action, have been wearing T-shirts reading "Healthy Ambos Save Lives" instead of their typical St. John attire.
FIRST Union, which represents around 1,000 ambulance officers across the country, says the T-shirts were introduced to draw the public’s attention to a number of issues facing staff including heavy workloads and unsafe practices.
However, St. John says the T-shirts are a serious safety hazard if not worn with a high-visibility vest and has been urging employees to wear one as well as standard-issue trousers and footwear.
"It is important ambulance officers are identifiable in an emergency environment where circumstances can change rapidly," said clinical operations director, Norma Lane. "Not complying is a health and safety risk not only to the employee but to fellow officers and other emergency workers.”
The organisation has already amended its uniform policy to include the t-shirts but says it can’t turn a blind eye to employees who continue to disregard safety.
"While there is only a very small number of ambulance professionals refusing to wear hi-vis vests, we have advised First Union and our staff that those employees not complying with this requirement will receive a 10 per cent deduction of wages,” said Lane.
The pay deduction is legal under the Employment Relations Act, which enables employers to dock pay from partial strikers but Lane said the decision had not been taken lightly.
"I can assure you we have not taken this step lightly but do so out of concern for the health and safety of our staff as well as for our patients and other emergency personnel,” she stressed.
Striking St. John Ambulance employees who refuse to wear standard uniform could face significant financial repercussions as bosses say they’re prepared to dock pay packets by 10 per cent.