Clearing the air

The government’s misinformation has left many confused about our campaign including their own MPs and some nurses and midwives. The Lamp answers some of the typical questions being asked about our campaign to improve patient safety.

When is my next pay rise?

Nurses and midwives are due a pay rise this July. The government has partially agreed to your 2.5% claim for 2013, but with two strings attached.

The government wants to “discount” the 2.5% pay increase by shifting 0.25% of it into your superannuation instead of paying you the whole amount in cash.

The government is using the pay increase to try to shut down your ratios campaign. They are hoping nurses will go quiet.

As The Lamp went to print the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) has decided in the union’s favour – that your pay increase should be the full 2.5%. However, the Treasurer has told the media the government is considering changing its own law to impose the lesser 2.25% cash payment.

How can we make the Government improve and expand current nurse-to-patient ratios in the Award?

Under this government’s new laws, there are only two ways to gain improved award based ratios:

  • By nurses trading off hard won conditions, such as breaks and leave; or
  • By applying political pressure on the NSW government. The government made the new law in 2011 – and they can change it.

On May 31, 1000 nurses and midwives visited the offices of their local Member of Parliament, around the state, to lobby for ratios. The impact of these actions were felt by all from the Premier of NSW Barry O’Farrell to the Minister of Health Jillian Skinner. It was widely reported in the local media and several MPs reacted by going on the attack, while others felt that they had been misinformed about the real facts around ratios by the Ministry of Health.

You’ll have your opportunity again to participate in an action. Please attend your branch meeting or speak to your organiser to find out more.

Can the Industrial Relations Commission decide on our claim once and for all?

In 2011 the NSW government changed NSW industrial law and took away the Industrial Relations Commission independent power to arbitrate disputes. The Commission no longer has any “teeth” because the law says it cannot grant pay increases of more than 2.5% per year, unless nurses and midwives trade off existing conditions.

The government has changed the law so that an improvement to the nurse-to-patient ratios system is considered an “improved condition” for nurses – therefore to get improved patient care you are being asked to trade off conditions such as leave or penalties.

I already work in a ward with ratios – how will this campaign help our profession?

Two years ago nurses and midwives across the whole state, including nurses from all specialties, took strike action and refused to re-open beds – and the first step towards ratios for all specialities was won. 1580 FTE nursing positions were introduced into the health system because of this. It’s time to take the next step to improve the system for our profession.

Winning ratios in emergency departments, paediatrics and specialties like community nursing will mean huge improvements in the care delivered to patients in these areas.

Winning better ratios in regional hospitals will save lives through safer stabilisation and retrievals to city hospitals.

This government has already shown that they are motivated by the bottom line and not patient safety. To safeguard your future interests, and the profession’s, we encourage you to get involved in this campaign now in any way you can.

Why is the Government resisting the extension and improvement of a ratios/nursing hours system?

The government wants the “flexibility” to change the current staffing system without consulting nurses. The award gives us some control over our working conditions. The government does not want this.

The government is putting out information to the media and politicians that is misleading and misrepresents our ratios claim:

It says that “ratios” don’t exist in the current system and that we are being unreasonable and are asking for a new staffing system. This is untrue. We are happy with the current nursing hours per patient day formula (which can be translated into ratios in the award) we merely want to extend and improve ratios in country hospitals and specialties that don’t currently have them.

They also say the current staffing system is the same for metro and regional hospitals. This is untrue. Nursing hours per patient varies according to the postal code you live in.

They say we are being unreasonable and seeking a “one size fits all” solution. The fact is, our ratios claim is carefully researched and tailored based on international findings. In independent research nurses told us that improving and extending ratios in the public health system was their top priority.