Conditions safe under Symbion agreement

NSW nurses at Symbion win a union-negotiated collective agreement.

Penalty rates, overtime rates, rest breaks and paid mater-nity leave are guaranteed under the first union-negotiated collective agreement for nurses at Symbion medical centres in NSW and the ACT.

The two-year agreement negotiated by the NSWNA means federal WorkChoices legislation cannot be used to take these and other conditions away from Symbion nurses.

The union set out to negotiate an agreement with Symbion after nurses rejected a non-union draft proposed by the company a year ago.

The agreement, approved by nurses in a ballot, delivered a 5% pay rise from February this year on top of an increase awarded by the Fair Pay Commission last December. There will be an additional 3% increase from February next year.

Nurses receiving an above-award rate of pay will have the February 2007 increase absorbed, but will get next February’s increase.

The agreement protects nurses’ redundancy and superannuation entitlements and six weeks’ paid maternity/adoption leave. And nurses retain the right, through their union, to go to an independent umpire – the Industrial Relations Commission – in the event of a dispute with the company.

RN Helen Bambach works at Symbion’s Parramatta centre, one of 14 in NSW.

Helen said some nurses were disappointed that the pay increase still means Symbion nurses are paid below public hospital rates.

But she said the agreement protects working conditions and gives union members the right to be represented by the NSWNA.

‘It gives us the opportunity to build a stronger base and get the ball rolling for a better deal next year,’ Helen said.

‘If we want a better wage rise we all have to work together. It’s not easy because we are scattered across the state, but people should realise that if we are not in the union we just don’t have the power.’

At Symbion’s Merrylands centre, RN Wendy Bradley said it was unfair that the union was fighting for all nurses at Symbion, but not all Symbion nurses had joined the union.

‘Some people may complain that they didn’t get enough of an increase out of the agreement. However, we need all of them to join the union and help us get a better deal in 18 months time,’ she said.

‘WorkChoices is forcing some people to give up conditions in order to get a pay rise. Our agreement guarantees we get a pay rise and don’t lose any conditions such as penalty rates or overtime.

‘Why should we have to give up important conditions? The politicians who brought in WorkChoices aren’t giving up any of their conditions,’ she pointed out.

Wendy also said she would like to thank NSWNA staff for all the work they did to secure a positive result for nurses at Symbion.