Several lifesaving ambulances will be forced off the road and into panel beaters to repair thousands of dollars of significant damage – including dented bonnets – caused by staff climbing on top of the vehicles to deface them as part of union’s ‘chalking’ industrial action.
In some cases, long-lasting paint – not chalk – has been used to scrawl the graffiti messages on the taxpayer-funded ambulances, causing further costly and significant damage to the vehicles.
And the SA Ambulance Service (SAAS) has also advised it has received complaints from concerned members of the public, particularly elderly and vulnerable patients, who say they are distressed and even frightened by the nature of the threatening graffiti slogans scrawled across their ambulance.
One report stated: “… this is making the whole community afraid. I do not think I will call for an ambulance as they are obviously unsafe.”
Another complainant said he was ‘absolutely horrified” by the situation and that staff had “no right to frighten vulnerable patients like this”.
One motorist said he ‘almost had an accident as he was trying to read what was written on the ambulance. Stop defacing ambulances.”
Treasurer Rob Lucas said the revelations raised by SAAS were deeply concerning and underscored the importance of its Chief Executive’s direction to staff on Monday for all chalking to cease immediately and for all graffiti messages to be removed from ambulances as a matter of priority.
“It is completely counter-productive that at a time when we are doing all we can to have more ambos out responding to emergencies, the union’s industrial action has the potential to put further strain on the system by having to take lifesaving vehicles off the road and into the workshop or local panel beaters,” said Mr Lucas.
“To have staff physically climbing on top of the vehicles to chalk is not only dangerous, but in some cases, I’m advised it’s caused significant damage such as a severely dented bonnet, which will cost more than $2,000 to repair.
“Of particular concern is the distress these slogans are having on some people, including elderly and vulnerable patients, with SAAS advising that some say they would be too frightened to get into an ambulance with the word ‘unsafe’ scrawled across it.
“It’s time for Ambulance Employees Association (AEA) secretary, Phil Palmer, to advise his members to follow the lawful direction of their employer, SAAS, and cease chalking immediately.’
Mr Lucas said he is seeking further advice on the total cost of repairs to ambulances as a result of the industrial action.
Yesterday, AEA members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Government’s offer to employ an extra 74 full-time equivalent ambos as part of a deal that also involves the end of all industrial action and comprehensive roster reform. SAAS has now begun the recruitment process.
The agreement states that “the AEA agrees to cease all industrial action”.