"Sorry we'll have to decline. Due to industrial bans we will only respond to 1A, 1B and 1C cases."
That was the message from Illawarra paramedics to their communications room on Thursday morning, as jobs continued to roll in despite a 24-hour union strike.
Only the most life-threatening Triple-0 calls will be responded to until 6.45am on Friday, after the Health Services Union failed to reach a breakthrough in their pay dispute with the NSW Government.
Health Services Union delegate, and Wollongong paramedic Tess Oxley, said the government's pay offer of 1.5 per cent was "insulting".
"Paramedics are taking unprecedented action because the treasurer and government refuse to give paramedics the respect they deserve in the form of fair pay," she said.
"The offer was 0.3 per cent last year, and 1.5 per cent in the coming year - which includes our super contribution and is not even in line with inflation. Previously the offer has always been capped at 2.5 per cent, and we've always been given that.
"So today we're only responding to serious and life-threatening emergencies that require ambulances to respond with lights and sirens. People struggling to breathe, with chest pains, suffering stroke or serious injury, will all receive an urgent response.
"However we won't be attending low acuity jobs which may include someone with a broken arm, or a person feeling slightly unwell."
Ms Oxley said paramedics valued the community support they'd received for the industrial action.
"In the last two years especially, paramedics have worked through some of the hardest situations we've ever had to work through - the COVID pandemic, bushfires and floods," she said.
"We have asked to be recognised for that work we do but the government continually turn their backs on us and refuse to listen.
"We are really proud to be paramedics and proud of the work we do and this action isn't taken lightly but we feel this is the last thing we can do to get their attention."
Wollongong paramedic Anton Jamsek is a 34-year veteran of the ambulance service and has worked in the Illawarra for the past decade.
He said despite the past 18-months spent at the "coalface of COVID", NSW paramedics remained the lowest paid in the country.
"We've tried to have discussions with NSW Ambulance, NSW Health and the government to talk about our concerns," he said.
"During the past 10 years there's been no pay increase in real terms, yet in that time we've had to take on increased responsibilities and workloads. Our clinical skills and advancements in care have also increased, yet none of this is being recognised.
"We're losing skilled paramedics to other states because they're getting paid an extra $250 a week."
A NSW Ambulance spokesperson said the union's decision to go ahead with industrial action was "disappointing" given the Industrial Relations Commission had issued orders against such action.
"NSW Ambulance would like to reassure the public that all paramedics will continue to immediately respond to life threatening medical emergencies," the spokesperson said.
"A plan has been developed to minimise impact to patients and operations are being overseen by a statewide incident management team."
The spokesman urged the community to only call Triple-0 in emergency situations.
"NSW Ambulance values the work of all of its frontline paramedics and call centre staff who continue to work caring for the community."
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