Heart clinics show some heart

Bargaining wins 3.9% pay rise for two years at Sutherland and Eastern Heart Clinics.

The NSWNA and nurses at Sutherland Heart Clinic have negotiated a draft agreement that will deliver a 3.9% pay rise in January 2010, and a further 3.9% rise from January 2011.

‘We asked the Union to step in and help in bargaining because the NSWNA has the expertise and knows what is coming up at other workplaces,’ said Miriam Sheehan, CNS at the clinic, who was part of the bargaining team.

It was important for staff from different sections of the clinic to have a say, she said. ‘There are different issues in the labs and Coronary Care Unit (CCU), so we needed both sides represented. Nurses in CCU work 12-hour shifts, whereas staff in labs work Monday to Friday. Shift workers get extra annual leave if they work Sundays and public holidays. The clinic asked that rather than looking at it in terms of so many Sundays and public holidays, we look it per hour. For example, if staff worked two 12-hour Sundays, it would be equivalent to three eight-hour Sundays, so it makes sense to consider it by the hour.’

The proposed Agreement maintains conditions from the previous agreement and provides more flexible arrangements for mothers returning from maternity leave, with the provision to work eight-hour days.

Sutherland Heart Clinic negotiated a draft agreement with the NSWNA in just four weeks, showing its high regard for nurses. ‘We have a good employer that treats us well,’ said Miriam. ‘As well as above award wages, they also give us a longevity bonus after we’ve been there 18 months and our super also includes 9% of the bonus.’

Miriam maintains it was bargaining that improved their current conditions, and recommends other private sector nurses also get together and start bargaining for an agreement.

‘Apathy will make you lose you out,’ she warned. ‘You need to get together with your colleagues and discuss what you want in an agreement. Don’t just wait for your employer to offer conditions.’

Although Miriam was initially ‘daunted and confused’ by having to bargain for her wages, she said that with the help of the Union, she’d be confident to do it again.

‘We are happy with the result at Sutherland Heart Clinic,’ she said.

Sutherland’s sister clinic Eastern Heart Clinic has negotiated the same draft agreement.

Members at Sutherland and Eastern Heart Clinics are expected to vote on the draft agreements in early November.