1989 Industrial Dispute!
In March 1987 the AEA appointed Phil Palmer as Organiser, then in July that year the membership elected him as General Secretary. Within 2 months of that election, the AEA commenced what became a 30-month dispute to bring the Service up to a national and professional organisation. During the course of that dispute the Union had dozens of different bans in place – the most effective of which was case card bans – blocking revenue.
In March 1989, the dispute “peaked” with virtually every Ambo in the Metropolitan Area suspended (“stood down from duty”) without pay over their support for their Union and the refusal to lift bans. The then Minister of Health (Frank Blevins) threatened AEA officials with prison under the Essential Services Act. The Service, with the Minister’s approval, used volunteers as “scab” labour in the metropolitan area. Country members were also taking action, but the Service did not have the nerve to stand them down as country volunteers refused to act as “scab” labour. This action ultimately broke the Service and the Government as the volunteers could not sustain rosters – the Minister conceded defeat. Within 6 months we were gearing up for a fully professional Ambulance Service, proper tertiary education and associated improved clinical standards.