Keneally Government says No to nurses

NSW Government has presented an unacceptable offer, rejecting nurse ratios and the majority of our pay and conditions claim.

The NSW Government has categorically rejected the majority of our pay and conditions claim, despite the greatly increased flow of money into the NSW health system from Canberra, the evident crisis in our health system due to the lack of experienced nurses and the success of the Victorian ratios model.

After months of waiting and extensive negotiations with the NSWNA, we have a response from NSW Health and the NSW Government regarding our pay and conditions claim.

The Government has offered pay rises of 3.9%, 3% and 2.5% per year over three years, contingent on offsets. These offsets include the removal of the stocking and sock allowance and nurses injured at work giving up their right to use sick leave to top up workers’ compensation entitlements after six months.

The Keneally Government has also delivered a categorical NO to your ratios and skill mix claim.

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes says the Government’s offer is disappointing and short-sighted and he flagged a vigorous campaign in pursuit of our principal claims.

‘We are particularly disappointed with the categorical rejection of ratios and clinically appropriate skills mix levels. They have also chosen to attack the shoe and stocking allowance and make-up pay for injured nurses and midwives,’ he said.

‘We will not step aside from our responsibility to act to ensure our hospitals are safe and we will step up our campaign to win public support for ratios.’

A TV and radio advertising campaign to educate the public about the NSWNA campaign for mandated nurse-to-patient ratios began as The Lamp went to print.

Nurses and public agree that ratios and proper skill mix are the way forward

The Government’s intransigent position on ratios and skill mix stands in stark contrast to the views of nurses and the public.

Research by the NSWNA has found nurses and the general public support mandatory ratios in NSW hospitals.

Nurses think ratios will provide a safer environment for staff and patients and would attract and retain more nurses in the system. Crucially, nurses think this is a pivotal time for addressing staffing ratios and skill mix because nurses believe strongly that the system is in crisis and the status quo is unsustainable. For nurses, ratios are easily the most important component of our claim.

The public understands that ratios are a key starting point to the reform of the NSW public health system and are surprised that ratios aren’t already in place.

We’ll only win this through pressure

Brett Holmes says now that the Government has laid its cards on the table nurses and midwives need to take stock of what is required to win better conditions for patients and nurses in our hospitals.

‘We will only win by garnering the support of the public and showing the Government we mean business.

‘For some months now many of our members have been active in this campaign – distributing leaflets to the public, lobbying MPs, talking to colleagues in the workplace.

‘Now we need all nurses to step up to the plate. Over the next month there will be opportunities for all nurses to join in this campaign as the NSWNA organises actions to apply the pressure. I would urge all nurses to stand with their colleagues as we send a message to the Government that we put patient safety before everything,’ said Brett.

What happens next and what you can do

  • Continuing talks between the NSWNA and NSW Health are scheduled in November.
  • A  full report on the progress of these talks will be presented to NSWNA Committee of Delegates meeting on 16 November.
  • Tell your Branch delegates what you think of this offer so they can bring your views to the delegates’ meeting.
  • Delegates will then report back to members after the Committee of Delegates meeting.

The Government’s response

The offer does not include ratios and the pay increases have strings attached.

NSWNA has not agreed to this offer. Talks are continuing in November.

  1. From July 2010: 3.9% increase
    The Government’s wages policy states that any increases above 2.5% pa must be funded by individual departments. The 1.4% above the Treasury-funded 2.5% pa is offered ‘to recognise nurse/midwifery contribution to co-operation with various initiatives: better demand management through MAUs, COMPACs and CAPACs, improved hospital-acquired infection control and clinical handover procedures, Take the Lead NUMs project, and implementing the new [forthcoming statewide] rostering system’. [Not the Hunter/New England Balanced Rostering system.] [The Department informs NSWNA that this software will be a tool for NUMs to develop rosters to meet their particular unit’s needs within the Award requirements and allowing individual preferences.]
  2. From July 2011: 3% increase, but strings attached
    The 0.5% of this increase that is above the Treasury-funded 2.5% pa is conditional on continued co-operation with efficiency and productivity initiatives and:
  • removing all sock and stocking allowances; and
  • removing existing top-up payments for injured nurses’ workers’ compensation.
  • From July 2012: 2.5% increase

NSW Health is also offering discussions for a possible 0.5% additional increase, but any extra would have strings attached. The Department states that negotiations for this would need to be held ‘over the longer term’.

The Association has not agreed to this offer.

Tell your NSWNA Branch delegates what you think so they can bring your feedback to the Committee of Delegates meeting on 16 November.