Macquarie Nurses Fight On

Sally McInally, NUM, Minchinbury Community Hospital
Sally McInally, NUM, Minchinbury Community Hospital

Nurses consider further action after historic strike.Macquarie Hospital nurses have pledged to take further action and are considering a community campaign as their employer refuses to engage in substantive negotiations for an Enterprise Agreement.

This follows strike action and protest rallies last month by nurses at five private hospitals owned by Macquarie Hospital Services.

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes said this is the first case where private hospitals nurses have been forced to take industrial action against an employer.

On 26 July, 24-hour work stoppages took place at Minchinbury Community Hospital (Mount Druitt), Delmar Private Hospital (Dee Why), Manly Waters Private Hospital (Manly), Eastern Suburbs Private Hospital (Randwick) and President Private (Kirrawee).

During the stoppage around 100 nurses rallied at Martin Place in Sydney, and nurses rallied throughout the day outside their hospitals.

‘Nurses working for Macquarie Private Hospitals were driven to taking industrial action after 18 months of protracted, fruitless negotiations with their employer for an Enterprise Agreement.

‘These loyal, hard-working nurses have not had a pay rise in more than two years, and their wages are lagging 15% behind public health sector wages and up to 12% behind other private hospital wages,’ said Brett.

‘Most private hospital operators seem to understand the need to remain competitive in terms of nurses’ wages and conditions. Most employers reach agreement with the NSWNA without the need for industrial action. But this is not the case with Macquarie Hospital Services.’

Sally McAnally, NUM, has worked at Minchinbury Community Hospital for 20 years along with many other nursing staff. ‘NSWNA members at Minchinbury are extremely disappointed that it has taken almost two years of negotiations and industrial action and we are no closer to achieving an Enterprise Agreement,’ she said.

‘Members would like to thank doctors and patients for their support during these difficult times.

‘NSWNA members aim to reach an Enterprise Agreement with the same rate of pay and conditions as other private hospital nurses in NSW.’

Ariane Ferey, RN at Manly Waters Private Hospital, said it was a big move for Macquarie nurses to stop work and attend the rally. ‘But it was necessary and the right thing to do. We hope people understand we are providing essential care, and it’s difficult to function with such a pay gap.’

Macquarie Private Hospitals owner Dr Tom Wenkart continues to deny nurses a fair pay rise and refuses to genuinely negotiate with the NSWNA for an Enterprise Agreement.

Brett said Macquarie nurses are seeking an Enterprise Agreement that brings their wages and conditions to a similar level received by other nurses in NSW.

‘We are not happy with the situation. We are frustrated that the employer has not made a decent offer and is refusing to offer an Enterprise Agreement,’ said Ariane.

Macquarie members and the NSWNA have been attempting to negotiate an Enterprise Agreement with Macquarie Private Hospital Services since January 2010.

‘Earlier this year, the employer even tried approaching nurses individually, asking them to sign Individual Flexibility Agreements that only offered a 2.5% salary increase and rolled some allowances (the uniform and laundry allowance and annual leave loading) into the base rates of pay. Not surprisingly, most staff declined the offer,’ said Brett.

‘After pressure from union members he upped the offer to 3.5%.’

The majority of nurses at Macquarie Private Hospitals have now signed a pledge to take further action if required, and are considering a community campaign to raise awareness and harness the support of their local communities.

‘It’s important people understand that we deserve to have our pay improved and our existing conditions protected. And individual agreements offered by the employer are not good enough. We want an enforceable collective agreement. We want people in our local community to know we’ve been trying to bargain for an agreement. We want to present the facts to our community,’ said Ariane.

A mass meeting of members to plan the next steps was being organised as The Lamp went to print.