Thursday 23rd October 2008
More union members means greater power to improve pay and conditions and ensure industrial protection. Nurses in private hospitals especially need to ensure a strong membership at their workplace, with new agreements up for negotiation.
Many NSWNA members, including those in private hospitals, fall under the federal industrial relations system and are subject to the remaining aspects of WorkChoices. This means negotiations for new agreements for nurses at private hospitals are now taking place in a WorkChoices environment.
To achieve our goals of parity in wages and conditions with the public health system, private hospital nurses have to get organised and actively recruit new members ,’ said NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda.
‘Members need to establish branches in as many private hospitals as possible, and get all nurses at their workplace to join the union.
‘You can then approach your employer as a group and explain you would like to negotiate a Union Collective Agreement. It’s hard for an employer to ignore your preference when it has the backing of the majority of nurses,’ said Judith.
‘The best pay and conditions will be achieved when members get behind
an issue as a collective. All members need to get involved and make sure all nurses are union members, especially in the current climate.’
‘You won’t get a good deal in your next agreement unless you recruit more members, said Judith.
Why should Nurses join the NSWNA?
Recruit and get active if you want a better deal, says Jillian
At 23 years-of-age, NSWNA ‘Star Student Recruiter’ Jillian Thurlow represents a dynamic new generation of Association members.
Earlier this year, the EEN and Branch Delegate from Lake Macquarie Private Hospital started an email campaign of her own volition at the University of Newcastle, where she is in her final year of her Bachelor of Nursing, to raise awareness about the NSWNA.
Apart from generating interest in the current pay parity campaign for private hospital nurses, Jillian was concerned that many of her fellow students didn’t realise the importance of joining the Association.
The email to fellow students clearly articulated the huge benefits of membership, including student scholarships, and elicited hundreds of replies from students to which she then sent membership forms.
Jillian started as a TEN at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney in 2004. Keen to gain as much experience as possible (and a few extra dollars to help with her studies) she also picked up extra work with an agency as an AiN – taking a cut in pay.
‘The money wasn’t that great,’ she said, ‘but the experience was brilliant.’
After commencing her nursing degree in Newcastle, she also returned to St Vincent’s as an EEN, commuting between the two cities each week.
Unlike many of her university peers, this experience gave the 23-year-old a strong grasp of the pragmatic realities of hands-on-nursing and the value of belonging to the Association.
‘Just before I qualified as an EEN at St Vincent’s, we were recruited to support the campaign for better pay scales for enrolled nurses.
At the time I couldn’t believe EENs qualified to give medication weren’t paid more – it is such a huge responsibility,’ she said.
‘So we joined and got active and just a few weeks later we were all on a better pay scale. It was brilliant!’
Since then Jillian has become a passionate member and advocate for the Association. NSWNA organisers at this year’s Annual Conference were so impressed with Jillian’s efforts she was recognised as an honorary Star Recruiter.
‘Honestly, you’d have to be crazy not to join – even as a student, said Jillian. ‘I remember once trying in vain for weeks to get a Certificate of Service with my correct hours on it from an employer. I desperately needed it for an application but they wouldn’t help me. I was in tears. When I finally rang the union for help, the employer sorted it out immediately and sent the correct certificate to me the very next day! Like I said, you’d be crazy not to join.’