Media Releases

The AEA is proud to announce it has reached a ground-breaking agreement with the Malinauskas Labor Government that ensures safe operability and transparency of the Ambulance Service, and improved safety provisions for members across the state – resolving the long-running dispute proceedings lodged in the SA Employment Tribunal (SAET) in 2019 under the former Liberal Marshall Government.

Core issues to the dispute were late meal breaks, over-reliance on overtime, fatiguing on-call rosters and ongoing health and safety impacts to our members and the SA Community. The Marshall Liberal Government refused to work with the AEA and its members and refused to share vital data and reports into the state of the ambulance service which led to this dispute. Copious amounts of evidence were tendered in the form of hundreds of documents and weeks of witness testimony.

Upon the election of the Labor Government in 2022 and the case still reserved for judgment, the AEA sought to revisit the prospects of negotiating some reasonable changes to resolve our long-running dispute. The parties have been consulting and negotiating in a determined effort to reach an agreement that looked after our members and the South Australian community. True to their word the Malinauskas Labor Government have listened to its ambos, and worked with us, to reach this agreement which delivers on patient safety and ambo safety.

The AEA is proud to provide detail of the following agreement which will deliver a safe, transparent Ambulance Service with strengthened safety provisions for members:

  • Nation-leading ‘Utilisation Rate’ Agreement which includes:
    • Requires that SAAS aim to meet an average metropolitan emergency ambulance utilisation rate of 55% or less.
    • The obligation to share data and information, and consult on proposals to meet this aim.
  • Staged removal of all remaining fatiguing on-call rosters across the state with conversion to 24/7 active shifts.
    • Barossa in 2024,
    • Port Pirie in 2025, and
    • Barmera and Loxton within a second term of Government
  • Strengthened protections against over-reliance on overtime and fatigue:
    • Right to refuse non-emergency taskings within the last hour of shift.
    • Crews in last hour of shift who have not completed their first (or only) crib break will be made unavailable for all taskings, except for Priority 1 cases.
    • Review of abstraction rates across operational rosters, to accurately quantify off-roster activity.
  • Strengthened Crib Break protections:
    • Right to refuse non-emergency taskings within the ‘crib window’

To demonstrate how desperately needed these provisions are, in FY 2021-2022, the average Metropolitan Emergency Crew Utilisation Rate was at 72.5%. Meaning on average ambulances were only available for income emergency calls 27.5% of the time. Ambos’ meal breaks were missed or late 62.3% of the time and Priority 2 Response times for life threatening emergencies were only being achieved less than 40% of the time. Paramedics in Barossa, Port Pirie, Barmera and Loxton were all working fatiguing on-call rosters for 96 hours at a time.

Secretary Leah Watkins welcomes this groundbreaking Utilisation Rate Agreement, removal of On-Call rosters across the state and strengthened crib break and overtime protections for members.
“This Government’s agreement on aiming to achieve an ambulance utilisation rate of 55% or less is akin to Nurse Patient Ratios – this ensures that there is a concerted, measured effort to ensure there are enough ambulances available when the community calls 000.”
“The above agreement reflects the sensible and reasonable outcomes that can be reached when parties work together towards a shared goal. The strengthened protections for our members to have a timely break and the committed work to reduce the over-reliance on overtime are all steps in the right direction.”

“The staged removal of all fatiguing on-call rosters across regional South Australia represents a lifeline to our members currently working 96 hours straight in busy regional communities, whilst also improving overnight ambulance response times in these local communities” said Ms Watkins.
The Utilisation Rate Agreement will now see the SA Ambulance’s operability reviewed yearly. Measures must be outlined to improve ambulance response times and members’ welfare. Factors such as adequate resourcing and ramping must now both be considered.

We thank the AEA membership for their patience in negotiating what has been a very thorough and complex agreement. Thank you for your trust in us to strike a great deal on your behalf.
This agreement reflects the closure of a case that has been running over many years. It is the culmination of years of hard work which predates Ms. Watkins’ time as Secretary. The AEA takes this opportunity to acknowledge previous Secretary Phil Palmer for his leadership of this case – one of the most significant and comprehensive cases the AEA has taken on.

Leah Watkins
General Secretary