Private hospital nurses need parity


As we prepare to launch campaigns to improve pay and conditions for many private hospital nurses, the NSWNA surveyed private hospital members to find out their priorities for a new agreement. Pay parity with public hospital colleagues and high workloads are the top issues for private hospital members.

Parity with the pay of their public hospital colleagues and workloads were the top issues for private hospital nurses in a comprehensive survey just conducted by the NSWNA.

Over 40% of the Union’s private hospital membership responded.

A strong majority – close to 70% – ranked parity of pay rates with the Public Health System as their highest priority in talks for any new agreement with their employers.

The strength of feeling among many was obvious: 38% of respondents say they have considered moving to the Public Health System in the past 12 months, with better pay rates being the key attraction. For ENs, in particular, pay was a very strong issue.

The survey also revealed strong support for the NSWNA among private hospital members as a vehicle to protect their rights and improve their conditions.

  • 93% support the NSWNA protecting their rights at work;
  • 87% believe a union collective agreement is the best way to protect their rights;
  • 82% want the NSWNA to negotiate their agreement for them.

Respondents to the survey also indicated that reduced workloads, parity of conditions with public health and improved penalty rates were equally important.

Workloads issues remain important for a significant group.

One third of nurses say their workplace is understaffed most days. Sixty-one percent of nurses worked unpaid overtime, with 25% doing between two and five hours per week and 4% more than six hours.

The survey revealed a strong sense of camaraderie and collective spirit among private hospital nurses.

The main reason respondents stay in their workplace is their relationship with colleagues combined with flexible hours and the convenience of location close to home.

Nurses had other positive things to say about the working environment in private hospitals. In particular they felt they had some ‘control’ over working hours, citing things like flexibility, self-rostering and set working hours and that there was a ‘friendly atmosphere’.

Vox pops:

‘Everyone in my workplace wants to be on a par with the Public Health System and be seen as an equal. We work in private hospitals with long hours and not many meal breaks. We just want to be respected, including by the community. I don’t think they realise we are behind in our pay and conditions. In fact, I think many would assume we get paid more. Talking about this campaign at work has certainly got people interested in the Union.’
Suzana Tanevska, RN,
St George Private Hospital, Ramsay

‘It’s essential we get substance in our pay offer from the employer so they acknowledge the input and value of nurses in the running of the hospital. We can have all the pats on the back but we want to be acknowledged with a pay increase for our contribution. Acknowledgement for education is important too. Education benefits the patient because it improves care, so the employer benefits as well. My colleagues are up for the campaign. They are very keen not to be left behind. They need to put food on the table and contribute to the household. If we don’t get a decent pay offer we will be falling even further behind.’
Debbie Lang, CNS,
North Gosford Private Hospital, Healthe Care

‘Everyone is very nervous because we’re not under an award any more. The two biggest issues for us are parity with the public sector and decent recognition for experienced nurses. This is a small facility and there are lots of staff with skills that aren’t recognised. Without a decent offer nurses will start leaving the private system.’
Dianne Lindsay MacDonald, RN
Forster Private Hospital (Branch Secretary & Delegate), Pulse Health

What we are seeking for private hospital nurses
Key claims for new private hospital agreements are likely to include:

  • 5% pay increase per annum for 4 years;
  • Extra pay for experienced nurses – 3.8% – and a new RN/RM Level 2 classification;
  • A workloads clause;
  • A Continuing Education Allowance;
  • Improved paid parental leave;
  • Increased night shift allowance;
  • A 1% increase in employer contributions to superannuation;
  • Improved clinical career paths for CNS/CMSs, CNE/CMEs and NE/MEs.