Union agreement at St Vincent’s Private

Nurses at St Vincents Private Hospital, Darlinghurst, have given near-unanimous support to a new union collective agreement that includes 3.9% annual wage increases to match public hospital pay gains.

More than 95% of votes were in favour of the agreement. The first pay increase is backdated to January 1 this year with a second rise due next January.

Other improvements include:

  • Additional annual leave (up to five days) for nurses who work night shift;
  • Sick/carers leave increased to 12 days per year with the incorporation of existing special leave entitlements;
  • A reasonable workloads clause;
  • Minimum nine-hour breaks between shifts;
  • Increased on-call allowances for nurses who are rostered off.

The NSW Nurses’ Association branch president and delegate at St Vincent’s Private, Brett Dowd, said the overwhelming vote in favour of the deal reflected the membership’s extensive involvement in the bargaining process.

‘Every floor of the hospital had a representative on the bargaining committee so that all areas of the hospital were informed throughout the negotiations,’ said Brett, who is a member of the NSWNA Council, the union’s governing body.

‘Then we held a series of branch meetings including one for the night shift, to decide whether to put management’s final offer to a vote by postal ballot.

‘The process took a long time and people had plenty of opportunity to have their say, so when it finally went to a vote nurses knew it was the best deal possible.’

Brett said St Vincent’s Private staff would get wage increases without having to accept ‘offsets’ such as those imposed by the State Government on public system nurses.

He said the agreement would con-tribute to the hospital’s ‘innovative recruitment and retention strategy, which has allowed us to reduce agency nurse numbers’.

‘We are doing everything we can to attract and hold onto nurses,’ he said.

‘For example, the hospital pays a new graduate allowance equivalent to the HECS fees of new graduates. And we have an accelerated progression pathway – a competency-based reward system on top of the time-based career path, which allows nurses to jump ahead on the ladder providing they meet a series of competencies.’

He said the hospital accepted the branch’s draft of a reasonable workloads clause without argument.

He said that after seeking the views of night shift nurses, the branch opted for extra annual leave as compensation for night work.

Mater Hospital agreement

Meanwhile, nurses at the Mater Hospital at Crows Nest have negotiated a union collective agreement with similar conditions to St Vincent’s Private Hospital, with the backing of the NSWNA.

Mater nurses also get up to five days additional annual leave for nurses who work night shifts; an increase in sick/carers leave to 12 days per year with the incorporation of existing special leave entitlements; a reasonable workloads provision and minimum breaks between shifts of nine hours.

The Mater agreement features a 3.9% increase backdated to 1 January 2009 and another 3.9% from 1 January next year, followed by a 3.2% increase from 1 January 2011.

A ‘leave reserved’ clause in the agreement allows the NSWNA to reopen negotiations over the size of the third increase if public health system nurses receive more than 3.2% in their 2010 campaign.

Other changes include a reworking of the Accelerated Progression Program which, among other outcomes, provides for quicker pay progression for part-time and casual nursing staff.