Fourth statewide strike for staffing ratios

After months of protracted talks with the NSW government, public sector nurses and midwives have voted in favour of a 24 hour strike next Wednesday, the fourth statewide action this year.

Fed up with inaction by the NSW government to address widespread staffing and workloads issues, thousands of NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) members will walk off the job from 7am (morning shift) on 23 November until 7am on 24 November (end of night shift).

NSWNMA General Secretary, Shaye Candish, said nurses and midwives were tired of being ignored over calls for safe staffing, better working conditions and fair pay to recognise their contribution to the health system.

“Since our first statewide strike on 15 February, nurses and midwives have gone above and beyond to put patient care ahead of their own basic needs. Shift after shift they have continued, burdened by short staffing and constant requests for overtime,” said Ms Candish.

“At the end of March, we held a second statewide strike after the NSW government failed to engage in meaningful talks about shift by shift nurse-to-patient ratios to ensure safe patient care.

“Following our third statewide strike on 1 September, NSW Labor announced its Safe Staffing policy, a commitment that will see improvements in emergency departments, ICUs, maternity services and Multipurpose Services, and the introduction of shift by shift staffing levels in most wards and units.

“This finally prompted talks with the NSW government however, it is now mid-November and no real solutions have been offered to address the health staffing or workload crisis. The government must also get rid of its wages policy and start acknowledging the value of our nurses and midwives.

“The evidence is clear that wage caps are hurting public sector workers’ livelihoods and their retirement savings, and it’s time for them to be abolished.”

NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Michael Whaites, said members were overwhelmingly committed to fighting for widespread reforms to attract and retain the best health workforce in NSW.

“Our members are angry and upset, knowing so many colleagues with years of clinical experience are moving to work interstate or choosing to leave the profession,” said Mr Whaites.

“Despite the NSW government agreeing change is needed, they have failed to acknowledge the urgency, or act to address the issues impacting metropolitan and regional health services.

“Nurses and midwives have endured three years of a chaotic and disruptive pandemic, but they have been overworked and undervalued by this government for much longer.

“Rather than winding down the clock before the election next March, the NSW government must listen to nurses and midwives who have the clinical expertise to understand how to best deliver quality outcomes for patients and health staff, regardless of where they live.”

Over the coming days, NSWNMA branches will confirm public rallies to be held around the state from Sydney to Albury and Broken Hill to Tweed Heads. During the 24-hour strike, life-preserving services will be maintained in all public hospitals and health services.

The NSWNMA confirmed it would continue meeting with the NSW government to discuss members’ demands for safe staffing ratios and improved working conditions.

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