Private hospital pay will improve – with pressure – October 2008

Improvements in pay and conditions won in the public health system will not automatically flow through to nurses in private hospitals. Improvements will not come without pressure.

Our private hospitals pay campaign has stepped up another gear with talks underway with the larger employers and private hospital nurses in facilities across the state.

Ramsay, Healthscope and Healthe – the three biggest players in the NSW private hospital sector – have indicated their willingness to negotiate union collective agreements.

This constructive position is to be welcomed by private hospital nurses while we are still negotiating in an industrial relations environment defined by WorkChoices.

There are still recalcitrant employers ideologically opposed to the involvement of a union representing nurses in private hospitals. They provide us with a challenge.

It is not automatic that improvements in pay and conditions won in the public health system will flow through to nurses in private hospitals. History tells us that improvements do not come without pressure. If we are to achieve an outcome of parity in pay and conditions with public health system nurses we will need the involvement of nurses in private hospitals in the campaign. It is vital that as many nurses as possible participate. You don’t have to do a lot. Just sharing information with your colleagues or talking with them about the agreement or getting someone to join the union can help enormously.

We recognise that many private hospital employers provide working environments which are attractive and flexible and enable many nurses to find a balance between work and family life. But these conditions should not be conferred by whim or favour.

Private hospital nurses are entitled to the same conditions and rights as nurses in the public sector, legally enshrined in an agreement and backed up with the security and vigilance of a union representing nurses’ interests.

Welcome to the new Health Minister

We welcome the new State Minister for Health John Della Bosca into what is undoubtedly a challenging portfolio. Clearly, the problems in our public health system have had a devastating impact on more than one politician who have taken on the position.

NSW needs a strong advocate within the Government who fights for adequate health funding so the people of NSW get the effective and responsive public health system they deserve.

We hope that John Della Bosca will embrace this role and effectively represent the health portfolio within the government.

He will need to be running from day one. Michael Costa’s departure from the Treasury came with the revelation that there is a $300 million blow out in the NSW Health budget.

This dire situation has already started to play out on the ground with one public hospital –- Royal Hospital for Women – forced to ‘bring staffing in line with budget’ and reduce overtime and the use of casuals. This can only lead to an increase in workloads.

Nurses and midwives across the state will need to be vigilant about the impact of budget savings on workloads and be prepared to take action.

Sponsorship guidelines

Our recent annual conference committed to expand our program for building community links through sponsorship of not-for-profit organisations.

The NSWNA Council has agreed on a set of criteria to be met by applicants, which is published in this issue of The Lamp.

A recent report in a Sunday paper said the final budget for the program will be $100,000. This is incorrect and I expect that the final amount will be significantly less than this. (See page 7 for details of the Annual Conference resolution and the new criteria).