Protection for Affiliated Health Organisation nurses

Nearly 1,000 NSWNA members working at publicly-funded but privately-owned facilities known as Affiliated Health Organisations will see their working conditions and rights protected for at least the next year with employers about to sign a referral agreement with the union as The Lamp goes to press.

The agreement covers around 20 facilities including St Vincent’s Darlinghurst, Newcastle Mater Misericordiae, Calvary at Kogarah, the Tresillian Family Care Centres, Karitane and Hope Health Care facilities.

Employees at these facilities have been covered by the Public Health System Nurses’ & Midwives (State) Award – meaning they have received the same award wages and conditions as public sector nurses, including all the pay rises won by the NSWNA over recent years.

With the introduction of the federal government’s new IR legislation, the majority of Affiliated Health Organisation employees have been forced into the federal IR system.

Outside the Award, these nurses were excluded from the safety net offered by the NSW Government when the Premier Morris Iemma moved to protect public hospital nurses from the federal government’s new IR laws by making them Crown employees.

In addition, the NSW Government also varied the NSW Industrial Relations Act to allow NSW employers and Unions to continue to have their issues heard in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission. This was possible if NSW employers and Unions signed a Referral Agreement.

That’s why the NSWNA, ASMOF, HSU and a majority of Affiliated Health Organisations have recently signed a ‘referral agreement’ that provides a safety net to staff for at least the next 12 months.

The referral agreement means staff at these facilities are now notionally covered by the state IR system and any issues arising from the employment relationship will be dealt with under the more worker-friendly NSW system.

For example, if there is a dispute about reasonable workloads it can be heard by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission; or if a nurse is unfairly dismissed or terminated because they are injured it can be dealt with in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.

NSWNA has provided information to members at workplace meetings and a fact sheet is available on the NSWNA website.

Certainty and security

‘We welcome the referral agreement because nurses at St Vincent’s now come under the same umbrella as public hospital nurses.

That has delivered us some certainty and security. Until now, we weren’t sure where we really stood.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue to have the same conditions as the Award.  But we can’t be complacent. Members need to continue to actively support their rights.’

David Ireland, CNS and NSWNA Branch President at St Vincent’s Hospital