Bendigo paramedics say they have faced threats of disciplinary and legal action over messages scrawled on ambulance windows.
A number of local ambulances have been adorned with hand-written messages calling for better working conditions and fairer pay.
Ambulance Victoria management labelled the notes “graffiti” and urged paramedics to stop “defacing” ambulances.
In a recent bulletin circulated to staff, Ambulance Victoria general manager specialist services Mark Rogers said the signs drawn with chalk pen did not fall under protected industrial action. “Any existing graffiti must be removed from all ambulances immediately by the current crews on shift,” he wrote.
“If handwritten messages continue to be written on Ambulance Victoria vehicles, Ambulance Victoria will consider taking action in relation to such conduct, which may include disciplinary action or legal proceedings.”
Bendigo paramedic Brett Adie said some staff had already faced threats.
“The government have really cracked it with us over it,” he said. “Management have made some unofficial warnings that they are considering action... All the messages are doing are informing the community of what’s going on.” Ambulance Victoria Loddon Mallee regional manager Kevin Masci denied that management had made any legal threats.
“That is categorically untrue,” he said. “We have been asking them to wipe them off. We don’t want ambulances covered in chalk, basically. At the end of the day I think a lot of the messages are controversial.”
Mr Masci said the ongoing argument between Ambulance Victoria and the union was about whether the signs were protected or unprotected industrial action.
Ambulance Employees Association state secretary Steve Mcghie said staff would be protected because the messages were being written outside work hours. He believed the threats had resulted from increasingly heated negotiations over the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.
“There’s no question there has been a bit of an effort from Ambulance Victoria to pressure staff to stop doing it,” he said.
“Our instructions to our members is that they need to be able to do it in off-duty hours.”
Mr Mcghie said paramedics have had a positive response from the community.
“We’re trying to get the message out there,” he said. “It’s got people talking.”
Mr Masci said he was no closer to determining when a pay agreement would be reached with staff.