Private hospital nurses’ protection countdown


With many Agreements expiring in September 2008, private hospital nurses should start thinking about improving pay and conditions in your next Agreement.

The way to get pay increases and improvements to conditions is through an agreement. This is the only way that nurses can win improved pay to keep pace with increases in the public hospital sector and also improve existing conditions.

According to NSWNA Assistant Secretary Judith Kiejda, private hospital nurses need to get organised and negotiate a new agreement with their employers to protect and advance their pay and conditions. Under the law there are two types of agreements – Union Collective Agreement (UCA) and Employee Collective Agreements.

‘A UCA provides the best protection because employees – supported by their union – negotiate collectively with management rather than having to fend for themselves against highly skilled negotiators,’ Judith said.

‘By working together employees have greater bargaining power. When combined with the expert advice and negotiation skills of NSWNA officials, UCAs are proven to deliver the best pay rises and conditions which, in turn, allow nurses to better balance work and family life,’ said Judith.

‘Not only do UCAs produce the best outcomes for nurses, they also provide better access to the independent umpire, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, which will act to enforce conditions if required.

‘But beware of Employee Collective Agreements (ECA). Some employers may push for an ECA, which excludes genuine union involvement. These agreements can be the first step towards much larger pay and condition cuts once the union is out of the picture,’ she said.

The NSWNA has successfully negotiated several UCAs at private hospitals recently that deliver pay rises of up to 13% and improved conditions.

An Agreement at Dalcross Private Hospital delivers nurses a 7% pay rise over two years, plus significant improvements to conditions such as 12 weeks paid maternity leave, an education allowance for postgraduate study and professional acknowledgement of endorsed ENs.

Committee member Heather Henderson said the gains under their UCA did not require nurses to trade off any existing conditions.

‘The biggest advantage of a UCA was that we had someone with us who knew what was going on … they knew how to effectively put our case to the hospital,’ said Heather.

To achieve a strong UCA at your workplace:

  • Encourage workmates to join the NSWNA. The more members at your workplace, the stronger your bargaining position. It’s easy for an employer to fob off one employee but much harder when you are united as a group. (See NSWNA’s ‘Sign up a New Member’ deal on page 32).
  • Form a workplace union committee to begin developing a list of issues you would like dealt with in an Agreement. Call the NSWNA office on 1300 367 962 to get tips on how to go about this.
  • Attend the ‘Your New Agreement in Private Hospitals’ workshop on 4 July at Newcastle and 11 July in Sydney.
  • Update your contact details with the NSWNA – particularly if you have moved workplaces or work in more than one place. Help the NSWNA keep you in the loop!