Ballarat, Australia, March 12, 2019 -- Minimum staffing levels at the 000 call centre are needed to keep the public safe, according to union organisers agitating for changes at the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority.
Industrial action has begun, including at the Ballarat facility at Mount Helen.
According to the Communication Workers Union’s Sue Riley, performance measurement is flawed - the average time it takes for a calltaker to answer is averaged over a month.
Times when it takes too long to answer a call, like late at night or during peak times, are smoothed out by periods with more staff on the floor, which unions say means measurements are inaccurate.
"The best outcome is that we get an agreement with safe staffing levels, so we know at any given time there will be enough police, fire, ambulance, and SES operators on duty so no one’s waiting on the line," she said.
"No one should have to wait a minute and a half, we all know what that would mean."
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The action includes union members refusing to wear uniforms, or refusing to place certain codes on calls, according to Ambulance Employees Australia Victoria’s Matthew Coggan.
"There’s a lot of false fire alarms - if a fire alarm goes off, and you haven’t kept up to date on your site, you get charged quite a bit of money," he explained.
"So the fire call takers, they put a code to know they get to charge those people a certain amount of money, and they’re not putting that code on to let ESTA know."
Other actions include only allowing non-emergency patient transport requests to be made over the phone, instead of email or fax, or taking calls for the non-emergency police assistance line instead of transferring them.
"They’re really specific about their numbers, and that goes into what the issues are," Mr Coggan said.
"They see them more as calltakers than emergency workers."
There are also concerns regarding ongoing funding from the state government.
Ms Riley said union members would not walk off the job.
"There is no withdrawal of labour, the unions would never direct members to put any public safety at risk," she said.
An ESTA 000 spokesperson said in a statement the company will ensure any industrial action will not affect public health and safety.
"Victoria’s triple zero operators care deeply about the community that they serve," they said.
"The public can be confident that Victoria’s triple zero service is fully operational and continues to run as normal.
"ESTA continues to bargain in good faith to reach agreement with the unions on the proposed Enterprise Agreement for our operational employees."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
About Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority:
ESTA operates three State Emergency Communications Centres, located in the Melbourne CBD, East Burwood, and Ballarat.
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2019
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