Discontent grows at NSW’s largest private hospital

There is growing discontent amongst nurses and midwives at NSW’s largest private hospital, the Sydney Adventist Hospital (The San), over the latest wage and conditions package offered by hospital management and industrial action is now being considered at the major facility if a more acceptable offer is not made within the next two weeks, the NSWNMA said today.

In the meantime the NSWNMA branch at Sydney Adventist Hospital will run a high-profile community information campaign throughout the hospital’s catchment area on Sydney’s north side.

This will include community rallies over the next few weeks, letterboxing throughout nearby suburbs and an online petition.

According to its website, the 110-year-old Sydney Adventist Hospital (SAH), known as ‘the San’, is an acute-care private hospital with 358 licensed overnight beds and a major expansion underway. It is the largest single campus private hospital in NSW. It also claims to be the largest single employer in the Hornsby-Kuring-gai Council area. It says over 2200 staff and 700 accredited medical practitioners care for more than 50,000 inpatients and 160,000 outpatients annually and over 2000 babies are delivered each year. (See www.sah.org.au/about-us)

NSWNMA general secretary, Brett Holmes, said The San is very proud of its history, achievements and role in the local community, yet in recent months it has consistently tried to drive down its nurses and midwives wages, salary packaging benefits and other entitlements since negotiations for a new collective workplace agreement began in March this year.

“Its initial wage offer, of a 1.75 per cent increase, plus the 0.25 per cent compulsory superannuation increase, from 1 July 2013 and then a two per cent rise, plus the next 0.25 per cent compulsory superannuation increase, in July next year, was immediately dismissed by the nurses and midwives. Its various attempts to claw back half the tax benefit of salary packaging were also rejected, as it should have been, by the nurses and midwives.

“These proposals made a mockery of Sydney Adventist’s claims that it is ‘committed to becoming an employer-of-choice’ through offering competitive salaries and conditions and a generous salary packaging program. (See www.sah.org.au/employees-benefits)

“It has withdrawn its attempt to keep half the tax benefit from salary packaging and is now offering a three per cent, plus the 0.25 superannuation increase, annual pay rise in July 2013 and the same in July 2014.

“However, this rise would still leave Sydney Adventist nurses and midwives behind their colleagues at the nearby Mater Hospital and St Vincent’s. For example, from July 2013 a full-time experienced registered nurse or midwife at Sydney Adventist would be around $1500.00 per year behind their equivalent colleague at the Mater and $600.00 per year behind nurses and midwives at St Vincent’s. That hardly makes The San a private hospital employer of choice.

“Sydney Adventist management is also resisting the inclusion of its salary packaging arrangements in the new collective agreement currently being negotiated. They are asking the nurses and midwives to take them at their word and that is a risky thing to do in any employment relationship.

“Finally, Sydney Adventist management also expects the nurses and midwives to do compulsory professional development in their own time. The nurses and midwives do not believe this is acceptable as it is done in employer time at most other public and private hospitals.

“Over the last few months the nurses and midwives at Sydney Adventist have shown they are prepared to stand up for better pay and conditions’ offers and they have secured important and necessary improvements. They are prepared to continue campaigning for these final few improvements, which will prove that Sydney Adventist Hospital is genuinely committed to being an employer of choice and a good corporate citizen that values the contribution made by its excellent nurses and midwives,” Mr Holmes said.

Sydney Adventist Hospital’s current nurses and midwives’ collective wages and conditions agreement expires this Sunday, 30 June.

To finalise a new agreement the NSWNMA has reduced its claim from a fifteen per cent pay rise over three years (from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016) to 3.5 per cent from 1 July 2013 and another 3.5 per cent from July 2014. It also wants the salary packaging arrangements to be included in the new agreement and for compulsory professional development to be done in the employer’s time.

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