Nurses deserve fair rates for night shift

The night duty penalty rate for NSW nurses is the lowest in Australia. There has been no rise since 1975. The NSWNA pay and conditions campaign in the public health system provides an opportunity to bring our night shift rate into line with the rest of the country.

In 2008, public health system nurses and midwives are campaigning for an increase in the night duty shift penalty from 15% to 25%.

Health system managers report that night shifts are the hardest to fill and there is an increasing reluctance of experienced nurses to work the night shift. NSW nurses are currently paid the lowest night duty penalty rate of any Australian public sector nurses.
NSWNA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, said an increase in the night penalty rate is a priority in the NSWNA pay and conditions claim.

‘Working night shift is an almost unavoidable part of nursing and midwifery. It is increasingly difficult to find nurses and midwives who are prepared to do this shift. An improvement in penalty rates to compensate is the only real solution,’ he said.

Brett Holmes says a lot more is known about the impact of shiftwork on nurses since the 15% penalty rate was last set in 1975.

‘Then, there was no conclusive health evidence about the negative effects of shiftwork and night work. Other state governments recognised the problem and delivered the solution of higher penalty rates,’ he said.

Brett says many of the resource issues in our health system are magnified on night shift.

‘Nurses and midwives on night duty work with less support than is available during the day. There are few experienced doctors at work or on call, no educator/mentoring nurses rostered on to support junior nurses, and rarely any clinical or clerical support staff.’

We must keep up the pressure

There have been several meetings with NSW Health about the NSWNA pay and conditions claim.

‘These talks will go on over several months as the Health Department is not yet authorised by the NSW Government to table an offer.

Our claim must first be processed by the Budget Committee of Cabinet,’ Brett said.

‘It is unlikely we will have an offer from NSW Health before the end of April. In the meantime we must keep the pressure on the government. The talks so far suggest to us that we will have to fight hard for what we deserve,’ he said.

NSW nurses’ penalty rates – The lowest in Australia

State Current Nurses’ Night Duty Penalty Loading in public sector Date of latest increase
NSW 15% 1975
WA 35% 2007
VIC 19–26%* 2006
TAS 25% 2007
TAS 25% 2007
NT 22.5% 2007
ACT 22.5% 2004
SA 18.5%, 19.5% from October 2008, 20.5% from October 2009 2007
QLD 17.5%–20%* 2006

* varies depending on nursing classification/pay rate