New agreement for 1100 SAHL nurses

Julia Taylor
Julia Taylor

Safe staffing was top of the agenda when the NSWNA negotiated a new agreement with one of Sydney’s biggest private hospitals.About 1100 nurses employed by Sydney Adventist Hospital Limited are benefiting from a new agreement negotiated by the NSW Nurses’ Association.

The agreement covers Sydney Adventist Hospital in Wahroonga (352 beds), Dalcross Adventist Hospital in Killara (more than 50 beds) and the San Day Surgery in Hornsby.

It delivers a 3.9% increase in wages and allowances paid from 27 September 2011 and a further 3.75% increase from 1 July 2012.

It introduces a localised process to resolve safe staffing issues – something Sydney Adventist Hospital nurses have wanted for several years.

Other benefits include an increase in paid parental leave to 14 weeks for those with a minimum four years service, a redefined Assistant Director of Nursing Classification with increased pay rate and introduction of Nurse Practitioners.

Nurses voted overwhelmingly in support of the agreement negotiated by a team of nurse representatives from most work areas and classifications plus NSWNA officers.

The nurse representatives on the negotiating team all worked tremendously hard plus we had terrific bargainers from the union,’ said NSWNA Branch Secretary and clinical nurse specialist Julia Taylor.

‘We had a really broad representation of nurses on the negotiating committee,’ said Julia.

‘That gave us a clearer outlook on what was happening and what people were thinking in different parts of the hospital, and we were able to keep everyone informed.’

Union membership at Sydney Adventist Hospital Limited jumped by 30% during the two-month campaign for the new agreement.

Julia said the negotiating team made a special effort to go into areas with low union membership to encourage people to join.

‘We had lots of meetings and discussions with nurses and they showed a lot more interest in the negotiations this time.’

She said members were happy they finally achieved a clause in the agreement setting out a procedure to deal with workload issues at a local level.

The safe staffing clause provides a clear escalation process with a time frame to resolve problems. It specifies factors to be taken into account, including occupancy levels, nurse hours per patient day, patient acuity and the skill mix among nurses.

A survey on safe staffing, conducted by the NSWNA, had 200 written responses. 82% of the 200 reported having to work through a meal break in the previous three months, with 40% saying it happened ‘too many times to count’, ‘all the time’ or more than half the time.

The survey helped mobilise support for the campaign and put safe staffing at the top of the union’s agenda.

‘The union reported the findings to management, which helped convince them to deal with the issue,’ Julia said. ‘Now we have to make the safe staffing clause work for us.’

The NSWNA and the Sydney Adventist Hospital will train nurses to help raise understanding around safe staffing issues and negotiate improvements.

‘We have to make sure that nurses have someone to talk to in their work area who can help them solve their problems