AMBULANCE paramedics have begun the first phase of industrial action – and have warned there is a "storm on the horizon" if the Government introduces planned pay cuts.
The paramedics are opposed to Croke Park II.
From yesterday, members of the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (NASRA) withdrew from voluntary service and the use of their personal sat nav devices as well as their own mobile phones and laptops during working hours.
This will seriously affect the response time to emergencies, paramedics said.
Under the new deal hammered out with unions and the Government, ambulance staff, firefighters, gardai and nurses will all have different terms for overtime and Saturday pay.
Although firefighters' premium rates will stay at double time, under a standalone agreement with the Government, pay rates for paramedics have been slashed.
Chairman of the NASRA, Mick Dixon, said their members were frustrated at a "lack of fairness" in the new deal.
"The members of the union have decided not to use their own devices for navigation during their working hours. They will also not use their laptops or personal computers," he said.
"They also won't come in and cover voluntary service if they are not rostered on.
"But this is phase one – there are three phases."
Mr Dixon said that union members believed these measures were necessary to highlight their dissatisfaction with the Government's deal.
"It is going to have some sort of an impact on services," he said. "We don't want to inconvenience patients but this is our livelihoods at stake."
And he said that this was "just the beginning" of a series of measures that workers were considering.
"There is a storm on the horizon," he said. "If there is a four-hour stoppage of blue-light services – the ambulance services, fire services and gardai – this means that there could be a shut-down at the airports, the ports, no response to fires, no emergency service response, no call out to crime scenes over a four-hour period.
"The bottom line is, if they [the Government] want to bring in these measures, then bring it on."