Hunter New England found underpaying senior ED nurses

Nursing staff who manage the state’s busiest emergency department at Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital have won a long running fight to be paid their correct wages, following a ruling in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) today.

Two years ago, NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) members discovered they were being underpaid for their roles and responsibilities in comparison with other Level 6 emergency departments in NSW and sought a regrading by Hunter New England Local Health District.

The Local Health District refused to acknowledge the senior registered nurses were being paid at the wrong classification, which led to the NSWNMA filing a dispute in the IRC.

NSWNMA Acting Assistant General Secretary, Michael Whaites, said today’s IRC decision was extremely satisfying for the members involved, but warned it was another disappointing example of health bureaucrats refusing to listen to highly-skilled clinical nursing staff.

“Naturally, our members are thrilled by today’s decision in the IRC. These Nurse Unit Managers should now be recognised and paid for their substantive role within the ED nursing team at John Hunter Hospital,” said Mr Whaites.

“It was clear from the beginning our members had been working in a Nurse Unit Manager role, but the Local Health District had chosen to incorrectly classify them as registered nurses with a small in-charge allowance.

“We should not have had to drag the Local Health District and our members through a long IRC process for this outcome, as it was clear these senior nurses should have always been recognised and remunerated in line with their counterparts in other Level 6 emergency departments.

 “We are grateful common sense has prevailed and the ongoing efforts of our members recognised, particularly given the challenging work environment they have had to endure, even before the pandemic.”

The IRC has ordered that the correct classification of ‘ED Coordinators’ at John Hunter Hospital is a ‘Nurse Unit Manager 1’, and has directed both parties to discuss how the new classification will be implement and to prepare underpayment orders.

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