Attention private hospital nurses

Want a pay increase?
… it’s in your hands
Many facets of WorkChoices are likely to remain. This means negotiations with private hospital employers – now under way – will be carried out in a WorkChoices environment.

With many private hospital union agreements expiring in September or October, NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes says pay talks will be conducted in the transition period between WorkChoices and the Rudd Government’s new IR laws.

‘That means we can’t be complacent and think that WorkChoices is gone and the employers will welcome our claim with open arms,’ he said.

‘If the experience of employees in other industries – Telstra and Qantas being high profile examples, as well as for many nurses in aged care – some employers will take advantage of what laws are available to them to stop people acting together to improve their wages and conditions.’

So far, the three major employers of private hospital nurses in NSW – Ramsay, Healthscope and Healthe Care – have indicated to the NSWNA they are prepared to negotiate Union Collective Agreements.

‘To achieve our goals of parity with the public health system in wages and conditions we have to be organised with branches in as many private hospitals as possible and strong communication networks,’ said Brett.

Private hospitals industry claims

Agreements in private hospitals will be negotiated employer by employer, but the industry claim that will be tailored by members as bargaining starts with your employer, is:

  • 5% p.a. pay increase;
  • responsibility for employer to provide reasonable workload;
  • increase in on-call allowance and in charge of shift allowance;
  • a continuing education allowance for nurses and midwives who have attained a hospital certificate or post graduate qualification in their specialty;
  • an additional 3.8% for experienced nurses;
  • expansion of existing enrolled nursing classifications;
  • improved clinical career paths and salary rates for CNS/CMS, CNE/CME and NE/ME;
  • increased night shift allowance to 25%.

What you can do to help

  • Make sure your contact details are up to date. NSWNA needs your mobile number, email address and award classification so we can get campaign material to you fast.
  • Encourage all your friends and workmates to be NSWNA members – there is strength in numbers. They can join online or by phone today.
  • Make contact with your NSWNA branch officials and offer to help them organise campaign activities in 2008. If you haven’t got a branch at your workplace contact the NSWNA.
  • Come to meetings at your hospital or in your local area.

Not all ‘collective agreements’ are good for you

Private hospital nurses can learn from their colleagues in aged care. In that sector some employers have avoided negotiating with employees through their union by ambushing staff with an ‘employee collective agreement’.

Union Collective Agreements deliver higher pay increases and better working conditions

A Union Collective Agreement (UCA) is the only reliable way to improve private hospitals nurses’ wages and conditions if you are covered by the federal industrial relations system.

  •  A Union Collective Agreement (UCA) means that employees – supported by their union – negotiate collectively with management.
  • By working together, employees have greater bargaining power, combined with expert advice from NSWNA officials. UCAs are more likely to provide access to the independent umpire, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, which will act to enforce conditions if required.

Nothing ‘collective’ about Employee Collective Agreements
There is a second type of collective agreement that makes union involvement difficult called an Employee Collective Agreement (ECA).

  • Don’t be fooled into accepting an ECA, as the law doesn’t require your employer to negotiate with you – only to ‘meet and confer’.
  • ECAs are only required to have the five minimum conditions set by the Federal Government. These non-union agreements may look good at first, but they are the first step to cutting pay and conditions.

Protect yourself against employer trickery
Until all aspects of WorkChoices are overthrown – and this could take until 2010 – it is important that we are on guard against employer tactics aimed at weakening our ability to improve wages and conditions. Here are some signs to look for that your employer is getting organised:

Sign What to do
Your employer is asking you to complete a survey that asks questions about your workplace and possible changes.

  1. Call the NSWNA before you complete any survey.
  2. Write on the survey that you would like a Union Collective Agreement.
    Meetings with Human Resources or other managers
    ‘Exciting changes to the organisation and your working conditions’ may be really good, but they might also mean a new agreement that decreases your wages and/or conditions. 1. Call the NSWNA.
  3. Attend the meeting and take notes.
  4. At the meeting ask if there is going to be a new agreement and if so is the employer going to negotiate a Union Collective Agreement.

Suddenly there are a lot of visits by Human Resources or your owner
Maybe they’re just taking an interest in the place. Maybe not. Call the Association and ask for information about Union Collective Agreements to be sent to your workplace.

Vox pops:
‘It’s important to push for a Union Collective Agreement so you have the union behind you when you’re negotiating your new agreement.’
Linda Jennings, RN, Hills Private Hospital

‘I don’t think many private hospital nurses know how vulnerable they are. When the current agreements expire we could lose all our hard fought conditions. Nurses in the private sector need to build membership to hold on to those conditions.’
Jan Shanks, RN, Hills Private Hospital

‘We often feel isolated in the private sector. It’s important to get organised at work and build the membership so you are not alone negotiating with management.’
Jillian Thurlow, EEN, Lake Macquarie Private Hospital

‘I think the key issues are the retention of experienced ENs and, obviously, parity with the public sector. Given the profits in the private sector, why are we having to fight for parity? We should be setting the benchmark. Workloads are always an issue, especially given the use of skeleton staffing.’
Jane Cooper, RN, Figtree Private Hospital