Ramsay offers pay parity and protection – March 2006

Members now to vote on `in-principle` agreement

Our members working in the private hospital sector for Ramsay Health Care are about to consider a pay offer from their employer after a determined workplace campaign (see page 14).

The Ramsay offer, if accepted by members, means that the campaign goal of pay parity with public hospital nurses will be achieved for the life of this agreement.

The imminent arrival of WorkChoices has seen aggressive employers throughout the country present their workforces with ‘agreements’ that will cut pay and conditions or, as with Qantas, are backed up by the threat of relocating jobs to low wage economies like China.

In this context achieving our second campaign objective of protecting workplace conditions until September 2008 is also a serious accomplishment.

In our wide consultations with members workloads were clearly a major concern.

Ramsay has now agreed to a process for discussing workload issues and with the higher level of involvement and activism in our branches arising from our campaign there is now a way forward to resolve these problems. The Ramsay offer deserves to be viewed in a constructive way by private hospital nurses especially in light of the alternative: no agreement and the uncertainty of the new federal system.

Ramsay has negotiated this agreement in good faith. They have listened to their nurses and their representatives, the NSWNA. Their offer sets the benchmark for other private hospital employers.

I’m confident members will see it in a positive light. I will be recommending that members vote in favour of the agreement.

Productivity Commission report has something to say

Reports on the health system come and go but the latest, Australia’s Health Workforce, commissioned by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and written by the Productivity Commission, could end up having a defining influence on the shape of our health system (see story p 14).

The NSWNA carefully analysed and assessed the Commission’s report. On balance we believe it is well researched and if implemented in an honest and transparent way can significantly improve the delivery of healthcare services across Australia.

The Commission endorsed policy positions that the NSWNA has advocated for years. It recognises that highly skilled nurses such as nurse practitioners and midwives have critical roles to play in delivering high quality health services. The extension of Medicare rebates to a wider range of health professionals will make it more viable for these services to be taken up by the community.

We would support another of the Commission’s recommendations, the creation of a health workforce agency, as long as any workforce innovations were backed up by hard evidence that these new positions would improve the efficiency and quality of the health system. We would not support it if it was just another way to cut costs at the expense of patient safety and care.

Nurses, like all other health professionals, will need to prove the contemporary relevance of their roles. I have no doubt we will be able to meet this challenge.

The report has now been referred by COAG to senior officials for further work on the recommendations and to report back in June 2006.

One thing is certain. This latest report has more chances of avoiding the too hard basket, the fate of its numerous predecessors. After all it was written by economists – a group that is credible to governments of all persuasions.