Bargaining by members at Healthscope private hospitals has won good pay rises, setting a benchmark for the private hospital sector.Members at Healthscope private hospitals are celebrating a 3.85% pay rise in 2011 and 2012 as part of their renewed two-year agreement, bringing pay rates in line with the NSW Public Health System over the course of the agreement. It sets a benchmark for the private hospital sector.
‘The NSWNA would like to congratulate healthscope for valuing their nursing staff and setting the standard for other employers in the private sector to follow suit,’ said NSWNA assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda.
The agreement covers more than 2,000 nurses at 12 facilities in NSW and is the fourth agreement negotiated with the employer. In February, approximately 80% of staff who voted, voted ‘yes’ to the new agreement.
In addition to a good pay rise, the new agreement also includes some extra benefits, which have been welcomed by staff. These include three days of paid professional development leave, as well as five days of trade union training leave and more options during annual shutdown periods.
‘This claim for paid professional development leave is a great win for nurses and midwives at healthscope and will assist in maintaining their registration and furthering their professional development,’ said Judith Kiejda. ‘While this is a good agreement, it does not include mandated staffing arrangements. We will be working to achieve this next time.’
Members had input to Agreement
These wins would not have been achieved without members and Branches taking a proactive approach to bargaining. Indeed, Karen Noble, rN in maternity at Newcastle Private hospital and Branch President, was instrumental in getting the shutdown clause reworded so that it allows staff a choice of whether or not they work during this period.
‘At Newcastle this is mainly an issue for theatre nurses. I wanted to get it sorted by christmas as that was when the shutdown was occurring, so I took a proactive approach and spoke with the Union and the employer and we reached an agreement we could all understand,’ said Karen.
‘The big win is the fact that theatre nurses can work in another part of the hospital or an adjacent healthscope private hospital or facility if they want to, so they don’t have to take annual leave during the shutdown. Or they can take individual days. as long as they don’t work on their annual leave days it suits everyone. It supports nurses because it’s their choice – they are not forced into working or being on call.’
Karen says it’s important that individual Branches take a proactive approach in negotiating their terms and conditions.
‘You know your own situation, especially in private hospitals. The good thing about being proactive is you can have positive outcomes for workers and for management,’ she said.
‘The big thing here is to have a choice. That’s the epitome of being proactive in your own hospital; it’s meeting the individual needs – and having a choice also makes staff feel valued.’
The importance of having a Branch
Shelley Laffin, RN in recovery and anaesthetics at Nepean Private Hospital, said that forming a Branch resulted in many members, including herself, changing their minds about the agreement and realising it was a good one worth voting ‘yes’ to.
The biggest thing is getting relevant information across to staff,’ said Shelley, who is the Branch Secretary and Delegate at Nepean. ‘The agreement is full of legalese and is a huge document. having a Branch has been really important in that we have had access to a Union rep who’s come out and explained it all to us. Staff felt like they were informed when they were voting. a lot of people did change their vote to a yes after they had the agreement explained to them,’ said Shelley.
Of course, maintaining a Branch means members who take on an official position need time to develop their skills as local representatives of the NSWNA. This is why paid trade union training leave is important.
‘Previously, this training was done through unpaid leave,’ said Lyne Dine, NSWNA Councillor and RN at Campbelltown Private hospital.
Lyne and a colleague set up the Branch soon after the hospital opened in April 2007. ‘A Branch helps in making staff aware of their rights and entitlements, and also their responsibilities,’ said Lyne. ‘Paid trade union leave will be important in encouraging members to be active in their Branch executive.’
In order to be proactive in putting forward what staff want to see in an agreement – and not just accepting what management offers – it’s essential to have a Branch so members know who to come to if they have questions about work-related issues.
‘I asked my colleagues questions – Who’s a member of the Union? Who wants a Branch? Then people got to know me and now they approach me and ask questions about who to contact for advice. It’s important to have one or two faces of a Branch that members can go to,’ said Shelley.
Lyne concurred: ‘a Branch helps in making staff aware of their rights and entitlements, and also their responsibilities. agreements cover meal breaks, time span between shifts, annual leave and reasonable workloads and so on. These clauses are about looking after nursing staff, which enables them to better look after their patients.’
Branch Officials and Activist Training (BOAT)
Members are encouraged to take part in the Association’s private hospitals Branch Officials and Activist Training (BOAT) courses. The next course takes place 16 and 17 March at the NSWNA office at
50 O’Dea Avenue, Waterloo.
Further sessions are also being planned for later in the year at Newcastle and Wollongong.
For more information, call 1300 357 962 or 8595 1234 (metro) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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