NSWNA takes action over voluntary redundancies

Union demands consultation with Sydney West AHS over voluntary redundancies.

The NSWNA has launched industrial action against Sydney West AHS (SWAHS) over its voluntary redundancy program.

SWAHS sought expressions of interest from all staff, but agreed to consult with the Union before processing any redundancies. ‘We had an agreement with them that they would not process or offer any redundancies to nurses without coming back to us and talking to us about where [the employees] were from, what type of positions and so on,’ said NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda.

But SWAHS reneged on the agreement. On 17 August it sent the Union a list of 29 nurses who it had identified as being appropriate for voluntary redundancy. Two days later a meeting was scheduled to discuss these positions, but insufficient detail was given as to why Sydney West AHS considered the positions as surplus to need. The organisation agreed the NSWNA would have a chance to consult before any offers were made.

A second list of nurses was sent to the Union on 24 August, but the Union got wind that letters of offer had already gone out to nurses on the first list. The date on these letters was 12 August – meaning it was sent before the Union even got the first list.

The AHS later said it would not process any voluntary redundancies from the first list for another week to allow the Union to consult with members, but that it had been directed to send out the same letter to nurses on the second list.

The Union filed the dispute with the NSW Industrial Relations Commission on 26 August and cited NSW Health as a respondent. ‘We got an agreement with Sydney West AHS where they agreed to put any other redundancies they had identified on hold for two weeks because there hadn’t been the required consultation,’ said Judith.

‘We are still concerned about the positions they have identified and the impact it will have on remaining staff and services. The Union is not opposed to voluntary redundancies when they are appropriate but is concerned it may worsen workloads for remaining nurses.’

Peter Mason, EN and NSWNA Nepean Branch Secretary, agreed: ‘How do we replace the experience of a nurse who’s worked in the public health system for 22 years? In my 12 years at Nepean Hospital I’ve never seen this amount leave at one time.’

Such is the concern at Nepean that 100 nurses attended a meeting and passed a vote of no confidence in the CEO because of the voluntary redundancy program.

The experienced nurses being offered voluntary redundancies provide essential back-up to those working on the frontline, according to Peter. ‘We have nurses with years of experience in the public health system who perform vitally important roles in many areas.’

The move by Sydney West AHS follows a similar one by Greater Southern AHS, which sought expressions of interest from experienced nurses, then tried to push through redundancies without consultation with the NSWNA.