St John Workers Win Big

Ambulance zooms past traffic.
Photo: NZ Herald

On Tuesday afternoon, the day before the St John ambulance workers’ strike was set to begin, First Union announced that a settlement has been reached. Hundreds of ambulance officers and paramedics were due to stop work at 6am on Wednesday morning, then again on Saturday, as part of a coordinated effort on behalf of the union.

As mentioned in a previous article, the strike was called over the charity’s failure to pay their workers a rate agreed upon in mid-2019, offering only a 5% ‘unsociable hours’ shift allowance since the end of last year. St John’s refused to uphold their end of the deal, and shouldn’t have been surprised when medics fought back. 

The St John’s board is filled with career politicians, ‘financial experts’ and lawyers. It is their voice, ultimately, that determines the direction of the charity as a whole. 

The new agreement includes the full implementation of an independent pay review and ensures no worker will be paid less than they would’ve from a previous agreement that secured 25% penal rates for nights and weekends. In addition, pay progression for dispatchers and call handlers – an issue raised during the last round of negotiations – have been resolved as a part of this new offer.

Collective action conducted by organised union members (or in this case, the threat thereof) works. It is inspiring to see these key workers win this dispute. This weapon – the strike – is one of the most effective tools available to the working class today. 

Lance Sharkey, trade unionist and General Secretary of the Communist Party of Australia wrote in “Communist Theory and Practice of Trade Unionism” that we must fight “against the underestimation of strikes, against a disdainful attitude towards the economic struggle of the workers”. The chief job of the bosses and bourgeois media is to belittle strikes and reduce their power in the country’s collective consciousness. Wins like this one prove their effectiveness and their necessity in our fight for dignity and fair treatment.