Historic action by private sector nurses and midwives

Hundreds of nurses and midwives at two major Sydney private hospitals walked off the job for one-hour today in their fight for fair pay and conditions, their first protected industrial action in decades.

Encouraged by supporters, NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) members at Mater Private Hospital in North Sydney and St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Darlinghurst marched to nearby community parks to highlight significant workloads and patient safety concerns.

NSWNMA General Secretary, Shaye Candish, told a sea of scrubs gathered at Green Park opposite St Vincent’s Private Hospital the stop work action would be the first of many until St Vincent’s Health Australia agreed to bargain on shift by shift ratios and a decent pay offer.

“The goodwill that nurses and midwives continue to offer in the face of chronic understaffing, fatigue and burnout has to stop. Something has to give. Ratios is not an unreasonable request. It’s a necessity to deliver safe and reasonable care to patients,” said Ms Candish.

NSWNMA St Vincent’s Private Hospital Branch Secretary, Kate Westwood, explained nurses and midwives were advocating for fair pay and mandated safe patient ratios.

“We are united and committed to achieve common goals for ourselves and our patients,” said Ms Westwood.

NSWNMA St Vincent’s Private Hospital Branch Assistant Secretary, Sinead Keane, said three days out from Christmas nurses and midwives were feeling unappreciated and overworked.

“I think we would all prefer to be inside, getting on with our work. None of us want to be out here calling for help. But we’ve been calling for help for four years now and nobody has listened to us,” Ms Keane said.

In North Sydney, nurses and midwives simultaneously gathered at the Mater Gardens to voice their concerns. NSWNMA Mater Hospital Branch Delegate, Libby Wall, described the growing concerns of midwives trying to care for mothers and babies.

“It’s just becoming more exhausting and more unsafe. A good day for me is if I say I’ve managed to have a break, but very rarely [am I] off on time. That’s why we’re here today, we need things to change,” said Ms Wall.

NSWNMA Mater Hospital Branch Assistant Secretary, Suzanna Ersotelos said working the last three years through COVID-19 had been really tough.

“We are tired and overwhelmed but have a professional obligation to do the best by our patients and keep them safe. Patients’ lives matter. We are calling for St Vincent’s Mater Health to be a leader in NSW and to establish safe staff patient ratios,” added Ms Ersotelos.

The NSWNMA applied to the Fair Work Commission for a protected action ballot after bargaining stalled on two separate enterprise agreements with St Vincent’s Health Australia. Further talks with the employer are expected to occur in January 2023.

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