The NSW paramedic's union claims paramedics' requests for leave to fight fires have been denied.
The Australian Paramedics Association NSW says it has received reports from paramedics that their requests for emergency services leave to fight fires with their local RFS Brigades have been declined, not because their shifts couldn't be covered, but because granting the leave would lead to additional overtime costs.
"It is hard to believe that NSW Ambulance is putting saving a few dollars in overtime costs ahead of overstretched RFS Brigades and the wellbeing of communities across Australia who are already experiencing the devastating effects of this fire season." said APA NSW Secretary and paramedic Gary Wilson.
"We have paramedics across NSW, who in their downtime choose to volunteer with the Rural Fire Service."
"These paramedics are asking NSW Ambulance to allow them to take leave, like other employees do, so they can help their local RFS Brigades and this is being declined to save a few dollars in overtime costs."
But a NSW Ambulance spokesperson said, although requests for leave may have been denied, the decision was not made as a cost-cutting measure.
"NSW remains in its third State of Emergency in two months," the spokesperson said.
"Additional paramedics have been deployed across the fire zones to cope with the unprecedented emergency conditions and the very high consequent demand on ambulance resources.
"NSW Ambulance has needed as many of our paramedics as possible on duty to meet this need. That is the only legitimate reason requests for leave during the emergency would be declined.
"Under S (44) provisions relating to declared States of Emergency, any overtime payments incurred due to the emergency conditions are reimbursed by the NSW Government to NSW Ambulance and all other emergency service agencies.
"There is therefore is no barrier to releasing paramedics where it is feasible, operationally appropriate and does not compromise our ability to meet the demand for ambulance services."