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Issue #1597      June 12, 2013

NSW govt to impose new pay and conditions on nurses and midwives

The NSW O’Farrell government is using its dictatorial industrial relations laws to try and sideline the debate about improved nurse staffing and safer patient care in NSW public hospitals and community health services, the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) says.

At the NSWNMA’s bimonthly Committee of Delegates meeting on May 21 workplace delegates from around the state rejected the government’s inadequate offer for a new wages and conditions agreement.

Workplace delegates angered

They are angry that the O’Farrell government is:

refusing to extend mandated minimum nurse-to-patient ratios to seriously ill children, emergency departments, high dependency units and rural hospitals and multipurpose services and provide safer nursing and midwifery staffing arrangements in community health services; and seeking to further discount the annual 2.5 percent payrise to absorb the scheduled 0.25 percent rise in compulsory employer superannuation from July 1, 2011.

Umpire not independent

The state government has in turn told the NSWNMA it will now get the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) to make a new pay and conditions award for nurses and midwives, based on this sub-standard offer.

Dictatorial industrial relations laws introduced by the O’Farrell government, since its election in March 2011, have significantly reduced the independence of the NSW IRC in these matters.

In response to this government threat, delegations of NSWNMA members, in up to 50 rural, regional and marginal electorates held by Liberal or National MPs, met outside the electorate offices of those MPs to protest against the government’s substandard offer and its refusal to continue improving the public hospital and health system through safer nurse-to-patient ratios.

NSWNMA general secretary, Brett Holmes, said the delegations told their local MPs that the government should not try to force a new award on nurses and midwives which does not include the extension of nurse-to-patient ratios to seriously ill children, emergency departments, high dependency units and rural hospitals and multipurpose services and provide safer nursing and midwifery staffing arrangements in community health services.

Treating communities with contempt

“Ramming a new pay and conditions award down the throats of nurses and midwives in this way is a violation of their rights at work and also treats the needs of most public hospitals and community health services with contempt,” said Holmes.

“In particular, it is a slap in the face for regional and rural communities around the state, who are entitled to the same mandated-minimum nursing ratios as the big city hospitals.

“We are asking the O’Farrell government not to proceed in this dictatorial fashion. However, if it does, nurses and midwives will continue their Ratios put Patient Safety First campaign until we are satisfied safer nurse-to-patient ratios have been achieved.”

Background

The NSWNMA’s statewide Ratios put Patient Safety First campaign was launched in Sydney on March 19.

A record 214 NSWNMA branches, representing more than 30,000 public-sector nurses and midwives throughout NSW, have endorsed the NSWNMA’s ratios and wages claim, which was then formally presented to the state government, through the Health Ministry, on March 11.

The current Public Health System Nurses & Midwives (State) Award expires on June 30 this year.

A key feature of the 2013 claim is guaranteed, safer nursing and midwifery levels for seriously ill children, emergency departments, high dependency units and rural hospitals and multipurpose services, and safer nursing and midwifery staffing arrangements in community health services.

The claim also includes two 2.5 percent per year payrises, which would provide the majority of experienced, full-time nurses and midwives with a pay rise of more than $70.00 per week, or more than $3,800 per year, by July 2014.  

Next article – NTEU welcomes Greens’ “Uni Cuts Hurt” campaign

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