Saturday 8th December 2012
This month I, along with the Association’s negotiating team, held preliminary talks with the New South Wales Treasurer, Mike Baird, and the Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, regarding our new Award, due to be renegotiated in mid-2013.I’m pleased to report that both ministers were receptive to our representations on behalf of nurses and midwives and the meetings were courteous and professional. The discussions were a constructive start to the negotiations for our new award.
The Treasurer – as might be expected – was keen to show us that his budgetary “cupboard” was bare. Nonetheless, he listened carefully to the messages we delivered on behalf of members, particularly that better nurse/patient ratios are critical to nurses.
We clearly pointed out to both ministers that there was international evidence to show that better nurse-to-patient ratios not only save money in the long term, they boost the quality of patient care and clinical outcomes for patients.
We also communicated unequivocally that NSWNMA members expect an improvement in their working conditions and will not settle for less.
Jillian Skinner did not dismiss these arguments. She was quick to emphasise that the newly elected Coalition Government had honoured the agreement on nursing hours, struck with the former government by increasing nurse numbers and meeting the nursing hours implementation schedule mandated by the Award.
I acknowledged this in a Lamp editorial (February 2012 issue). It said, in part:
“After the last NSW state election, the O’Farrell Government agreed to abide by the Memorandum of Understanding negotiated between the NSWNA and the previous Labor government. We welcomed that announcement and acknowledge that, so far, they have stood by their word …”
I am happy to report that these initial meetings were a cordial opening to what will be many long months of negotiations toward winning a new award with the government.
The Association will maintain a spirit of constructive engagement for as long as we judge that it is being reciprocated and our discussions are being conducted in good faith. We prefer to negotiate the agreement by discussion, but will never be deflected from our primary aim: to see pay and conditions – especially ratios – improved for nurses and midwives in New South Wales’ hospitals.
The Auditor-General has revealed that the New South Wales government had made a $1 billion mistake in its calculations, and the budget is actually in surplus.
Peter Achterstraat’s audit of the state’s finances found that “data entry errors, mistakes in spreadsheets and poor reconciliations” were responsible for much of the errors in projections.
He said there were 37 mistakes of more than $20 million each.
When Treasurer Mike Baird delivered the budget in June, he forecast a deficit of $337 million. The government used the deficit to rationalise a “tough” budget, with $1.24 billion in cuts and thousands of job losses in the public sector.
The Auditor-General was scathing about the quality of the financial accounts coming from government departments into Treasury.
“The New South Wales government is a billion-dollar business, it’s not a school tuckshop,” he said.