2005 – A great year for NSW nurses

It’s been a strong year for nurses with some great wins in the face of enormous challenges. The year started with some vigorous and successful pay campaigns and finished with a stern message to John Howard

that our rights at work are off limits …

More pay and better conditions for nurses
This year nurses consistently got out the message that fair pay rises were a crucial step to solving the nursing shortage. If we want to retain nurses and recruit new nurses we need a nursing profession that is properly valued.

  • DADHC:

The year kicked off with backdated pay increases of between 3.5% and 17.2% for DADHC nurses, bringing them in to line with public hospital nurses. DADHC nurses also won a reasonable workloads award clause and pilot rostering of 12-hour shifts.

  • Public hospitals:

In May the Public Health: there’s no fix without nurses campaign culminated in a 14.7% pay rise over 3< years for public hospital nurses. Other top conditions won include groundbreaking paid maternity leave, higher pay for medication-endorsed ENs, and improved union delegate rights at work.

  • Aged Care:

Late March saw 25,000 aged care nurses in NSW celebrate a 25% pay rise over three years. Later in the year aged care nurses received a new Continuing Education Allowance of up to$30 a week for additional qualifications.

  • Private hospitals:

In January nurses employed by Healthscope received a 3.5% increase to bring them into line with those from Ramsay and Affinity hospitals who picked up increases to achieve parity with public hospitals at the end of 2004. Smaller operators soon fell into line and paid up the 3.5%.

Fair and safe workloads are still a burning issue
Crippling workloads remain the bane of a NSW nurse’s life but NSWNA members have become increasingly familiar with the application of the reasonable workloads clause. Nurses in public hospitals are using the reasonable workloads committees to ease the burden and they haven’t been shy to close beds if they have concerns about patient safety. Two hospitals, Maitland and Coffs Harbour Base Hospital, showed the way with two different paths to achieve a result.

Our contribution as good global citizens
When coastal communities across South-East Asia were decimated with hundreds of thousands killed and millions of lives devastated, NSW nurses moved quickly to provide aid and assistance on the ground. The NSWNA fronted up with $25,000 to the Union Aid Abroad relief campaign, nurses around the state fundraised and dug deep into their pockets and some even made their way to the disaster areas to help.

The havoc and misery inflicted on New Orleans by hurricane Katrina brought out a similar response after a call for help from our colleagues in the Louisiana Nurses Union. The generosity towards less fortunate has continued with a $16,000 donation from the NSWNA to aid earthquake victims in Pakistan.

Securing our future
The federal government’s attack on workers’ rights highlights the need for a strong plan to defend nurses’ industrial and professional rights. The NSWNA’s 60th Annual Conference resolved, in a rare unanimous vote, to create a Nurse Power Fund that will resource strong, ongoing campaigns to win public support for nurses and our issues. The Association has also been vigorous in converting as many members over to direct debit from payroll deductions in order to protect the union from any attack by cutting off our revenue. NSWNA also relentlessly applied pressure, and will continue to do so, on the Area Health Services to maintain nurses’ influence in management positions.

Nurses spread a strong message of protest
$55 million worth of slippery and dishonest advertising has done nothing to stem the anger among nurses towards the federal government’s vicious anti-worker IR laws.

There were plenty of nurses among the 100,000 in NSW who rallied against the government’s draconian laws on 1 July when Howard took control of the senate. The momentum continued at the Last Weekend picnic on 7 August and nurses made their own statement against Howard’s plan to kill off the state IR systems with a spirited vigil outside the NSW IRC in the heart of the Sydney CBD in November.