O’Farrell Puts Nurses’ Conditions At Risk

The O’Farrell Government now has the power to roll back your hard-fought workplace conditions.

The O’Farrell Government passed a law that would restrict state sector wage increases to 2.5%. Now the Government has introduced regulations that significantly extend this power over nurses’ and other public sector workers’ workplace conditions.

The new workplace regulations give the O’Farrell Government the power to unilaterally roll back workplace conditions including penalty rates, hours of employment and travel allowances.

The only conditions that are protected are those enshrined in legislation such as the Fair Work Act.

According to Unions NSW, the conditions of employment that are vulnerable under the regulations include:

  • annual leave loading
  • defined benefit superannuation
  • flex leave
  • shift allowances and meal money
  • lunch breaks
  • training leave and study leave.

These types of conditions must be reduced in order to get a wage rise above 2.5%. The Government can now also impose restrictions on these types of conditions on employees.

The laws also require that:

  • no wage increases be back-dated
  • the savings must be proven to have been achieved before any wage rise above 2.5% is actually paid, even if management has delayed implementing the savings
  • job cuts don’t count towards savings
  • if extra savings are delivered they will not necessarily flow into a wage rise.

All NSW Liberal MPs voted to pass these laws.

As reported in last month’s issue of The Lamp, the Industrial Relations Commission has been stripped of its independence and must now comply with any regulation made by the Government in setting public sector wages and conditions.

Only eight conditions of employment cannot be traded off. They include:

  • 12 months’ unpaid parental leave (from the Fair work Act)
  • 9% superannuation (from the Superannuation Guarantee legislation)
  • four weeks’ annual leave (from the Annual Holidays Act)
  • The 11 standard public holidays (from the Public Holidays Act).

Even the notorious WorkChoices-guaranteed casual loadings and minimum hours of work are now vulnerable to roll back by the State Government.

Vox pops:

‘It’s great to see so many different unions here today. It’s great to see so many of us prepared to fight these unjust laws. Just remember: we kicked out Howard, we can do the same with O’Farrell if he doesn’t repeal these laws.’

Luke Marks, RN at Orange Base Hospital, spoke at the Orange Rally.

‘I’m not sure where Mr O’Farrell expects us to find savings in the system. I’d like to invite him to come to Bathurst Base Hospital. Let him see the nurses’ workloads, the unpaid overtime we do every day just to keep the hospital going.’

Lynne Sloane, NUM Bathurst Base Hospital and Bathurst Base Branch President, spoke at the protest rally against the workplace regulations.

‘It’s not up to me to tell this crowd how to vote but come election time we need to remember that our sitting members allowed this disgraceful bill to pass through into law. We may need to vote him out!’

Steve Nott, RN at Dubbo Base Hospital and Branch Vice-President.

Key implications of the regulations

There will effectively be a wage freeze for public sector workers including nurses of 2.5%, which is well below the current CPI (inflation rate) of 3.3%.

  • To achieve a pay increase over 2.5% nurses will have to make cost savings through trade-offs of other conditions.
  • The regulations give the O’Farrell Government the power to roll back many important conditions of employment. These include penalty rates, overtime rates, travel allowances, meal breaks, hours of work (including lunch breaks), and any other condition in the award or agreement that is not protected by the minimum conditions of employment in the regulations.
  • Even if nurses accept a 2.5% wage increase and not bargain away other conditions of employment, the Government could still have these conditions of employment reduced or removed through new regulations.
  • If major savings are found through restructuring departments including redundancies, they may not be included as the ‘employee-related cost savings’ now needed to justify a pay increase beyond 2.5%

Take Action!

  • Tell your MP Online
  • Unions NSW and public sector unions have a website ‘Better Services For A Better State’ where you can find information about the new laws and their impact on nurses and other public sector workers. You can also tell your local MP by email of your opposition to the new laws. Go to http://betterstate.org.au/reject-workchoices-take-action/
  • Change to Direct Debit
  • The State Government could at any time stop payroll deductions and put at risk your NSWNA membership. If you still pay your union fees by payroll deduction convert now to Direct Debit or Credit. Download a Direct Debit form from the NSWNA website www.nswnurses.asn.au or call us on Metro 8595 1234 or rural 1300 367 962.
  • Rallies for your rights at work
  • Unions NSW held rallies outside the offices of MPs who voted to take away the rights of NSW public sector workers throughout July. These rallies will continue throughout August. For more information, visit the NSWNA or Better Services Better State websites.

Rallies for your rights

  • Members from Bathurst Base Branch, Bathurst Correctional Facility and Lithgow Branch got together to rally for their rights.
  • Nurses from Tamworth and Werris Creek, along with members of their families, rallied outside local MP Kevin Anderson’s office.
  • Nurses marched for their rights, alongside other public-sector workers, at the Tamworth rally, led by NSWNA activist Anne Almagro, RN (pictured in red top and jumper).
  • Dubbo nurses gathered to demand their rights.
  • After marching through the streets of Orange, nurses attended a rally.

Public sector workers marched through the main street of Orange.

Picture: Members of Orange Base, Bloomfield and the Riverside Centre prepared to march through the main street.