New Chief Nurse a step forward for nursing – April 2008

Chief Nurse gives nurses a presence at the heart of government

The Rudd Government has announced the creation of the position of Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, fulfilling one of its election commitments. Clearly this will be an important role in advising the government on nursing and midwifery and its contribution to solving the nation’s health issues.

This is a great achievement for the NSWNA, ANF and all of the profession and marks the culmination of years of lobbying to get the position created.

Nurses comprise more than 50% of the Australian health workforce so it is essential they are represented at a national level and this position should contribute to raising the status of nurses and midwives within government.

The Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer will also have an important role representing Australia in international nursing forums.

Nurses and midwives need to be realistic about their expectations of what the first person in the role will be able to deliver. The position is not an instant panacea to our problems but it does provide us with a national voice on nursing and midwifery and representation of the nursing workforce within the Rudd Government. This is to be greatly welcomed.

As a union representing nurses and midwives, we expect to have some differing opinions with the Chief Nurse but at least we will have access to someone in the heart of government who will have the interests of nurses at heart and an understanding of the challenges confronting the health system from the nurses’ and midwives’ perspective.

We shouldn’t expect the Chief Nurse to be able to represent nurses and midwives from an industrial perspective. The NSWNA and the ANF at the national level will need to continue advocating for nurses industrially and professionally.

Clock is ticking on public health system pay and conditions talks

We now have had several meetings with NSW Health about our pay claim for nurses and midwives in the NSW public health system. The NSWNA has explained and vigorously advocated for the improvements we have put on the table, which we believe are critical if we are to retain experienced nurses and midwives already in the system and to attract new nurses and midwives to the profession.

These improvements include:

  • 5% pay increase per annum over four years;
  • an extra 3% for certain classifications to recognise experience and increased responsibility;
  • an extra 1% employer superannuation contribution per year for each year of the award;
  • 25% penalty loading for night work.

These negotiations will be prolonged for at least a month or two as the Health Department is not yet authorised by the NSW Government to table an offer. However, the agreement must be in place by 30 June when the old agreement expires because under the Iemma Government’s public sector wages’ policy there will be no back pay paid after an agreement expires, except in undefined exceptional circumstances. This is a new and uncompromising tactic by the government in public sector wage negotiations.

It is unlikely we will have an offer from NSW Health before the end of April due to the cumbersome machinery of government through which our claim must pass.

The greater the delay in improving nurses’ and midwives’ wages and conditions, the greater risk of losing more experienced nurses and midwives from the system. The Iemma Government should reflect on this when framing its offer.

Farewell Jill and welcome Ged

Jill Iliffe has announced her resignation as Federal Secretary of the ANF after nine years in the job. The ANF Federal Executive has appointed the current Assistant Federal Secretary, Ged Kearney, to take over the position from 1 April 2008. Lee Thomas, the current ANF South Australian Branch Secretary has been elected as the new ANF Assistant Federal Secretary.

I congratulate Ged and Lee on their election to their new roles. The federal leadership plays a significant role in representing the interests of nurses and midwives nationally. The NSW Branch of the ANF and the NSWNA look forward to working with Ged and Lee in achieving the best outcomes for Australian nurses and midwives.