Calvary Nurses Celebrate New Agreement

Industrial Issues - Calvary Nurses Celebrate New Agreement image - p_1620Calvary_nurses2
L to R: Helen Teakel, Maria Harmer and Janet Hume of Calvary Private Hospital

The NSWNA and members at calvary Private hospital have negotiated a 3.85% pay increase per year which matches public hospital rates six months later as part of a two-year Enterprise agreement. The agreement also sees additional, improved conditions.These include paid maternity leave increased to 15 weeks (from 13), paid emergency services leave of three shifts a year, an extra week of annual leave for theatre nurses required to be on call one weekend in four and one night a week and three days of paid trade union training leave a year. There is also an option for part-time staff to have a review of their hours, and for casuals to convert to permanent employment.

Negotiations began in November 2010 to renew the agreement, which covers 300 nurses at the 104-bed private hospital and day procedure centre owned by Little Company of Mary.

‘Wagga Wagga has a competitive labour market for nurses and calvary realised they needed good wages and conditions to retain nursing staff,’ said NSWNA assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda. ‘Members are educated around the process and were keen to start early. The employer took a sensible approach to bargaining.’

The agreement matches public hospital rates six months later, with wage increases happening in the public sector from 1 July 2010 and at calvary from 1 January 2011. Backpay will be paid to all nurses in March.

‘Calvary has employed 13 new graduate rNs, which is a real positive, who will be covered under the agreement,’ said Judith.

The members who took part in the bargaining process were Helen Teakel, RM; Maria Harmer, CNE, orthopaedics; Kate Paech, CNE theatre: James Krebs, NUM, Medical and Palliative care; and Janet Hume, RN, Medical and Palliative care.

Before the negotiations began, the Association conducted a survey of nursing staff, asking them what they would like included. The Lamp spoke with Helen Teakel, Janet Hume and Maria Harmer, who said the negotiating team felt staff were mostly pleased with the resulting agreement.

‘We are particularly pleased with the wage increase as well as the extra leave for theatre nurses if they meet the criteria,’ said Helen, who was involved in the negotiations for the first agreement back in 2006. ‘And younger nurses are happy about the paid maternity leave, which will help retain our staff.’

Not all issues were resolved in the agreement – workloads and ratios, for example. But the employer did agree to the formation of a consultative committee at the hospital so these issues could be discussed in detail over time. The agreement retains the previous Nursing Workloads provisions.

‘It’s a start,’ said Janet. ‘many members were unable to get to meetings to discuss the agreement, even though their managers said they could go. Their workloads meant they couldn’t attend. Workloads and ratios is one of the issues we are fighting for and it will definitely be high on the agenda in two years for the next agreement.’

Other issues for the consultative committee include overtime for staff and ensuring employees get meal breaks.

The success of this third agreement is testimony to the importance of bargaining. For Maria, it was her first time taking part in a bargaining process. ‘It was not too daunting and I felt we had our say,’ she said. ‘The union reps were great because they were able to converse with the lawyer and understood all the legal jargon. There’s no way we could have secured this agreement without the Association.’

The agreement was voted on last month with 94% of staff who voted, voting ‘yes’. The pay rise was effective from the first pay after the vote, rather than waiting several weeks for formal approval by Fair Work Australia.

Key benefits in the agreement:

  • A two-year Agreement with an expiry date of 31 December 2012.
  • 3.85% increase per year in wages and allowances from first pay periods on or after 1 January 2011 and 1 January 2012.
  • Increased paid maternity leave from 13 weeks to 15 weeks.
  • Paid emergency services leave of three shifts per year.
  • Fifth week annual leave for operating theatre nurses required to be on call one weekend in four and one night per week (in addition to the on call allowance).
  • Paid trade union training leave – three days per year.
  • Increased casual loading and an option of conversion to permanent employment.
  • Annual review of part-time hours.
  • Formation of a Consultative Committee.
  • Clarification of public holidays.
  • Jury service consistent with the NSW top up approach.
  • Extension of Continuing Education Allowance to CNCs.
  • Professional development leave – 16 hours retained from the current Agreement.
  • Annual leave options – half pay and purchasing two weeks’ leave.
  • Ceremonial leave.