NSW Government fails nurses


Three months after presenting our claim for improved pay and conditions for public health nurses and midwives to NSW Health, and 20 working days before the expiry of our current agreement, NSW nurses are still waiting for an offer from the NSW Government.

As The Lamp went to press, over 200 NSWNA delegates have told the Government that the three-month delay in starting talks for improved pay and conditions shows bad faith towards nurses and midwives of the public health system. Delegates gave the Government until 2 June to come up with an offer that is acceptable to members.

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes slammed the Government for their failure to present nurses with a reasonable offer.

‘Despite reports about nursing shortages, the ever-increasing pressure on the public health system, and evidence given to the Garling Inquiry, this Government is placing NSW residents at risk by effectively encouraging nurses and midwives to leave the system. ‘It’s appalling,’ he said.

‘The feedback I have from nurses and midwives is they have had a gutful and they want to send a strong message to the Government.’

The Iemma Government had previously indicated that all public sector wage increases were to be limited to 2.5% unless there were significant ‘employee-related cost savings to pay for additional increases over 2.5%’.

The 2.5% figure purports to match inflation, bizarrely calculated as an average of the Sydney inflation rate over the past 11 years.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show inflation running at 4.2% to the year ending 31 March, 2008. The ABS predicts inflation to remain high for 2008 and then gradually reduce to around 2.75% by the end of 2010.

Backpay is threatened
Brett Holmes says the Government’s wages policy also threatens that backpay will not be made on the first pay increase of an agreement unless there is a new agreement in place.

‘The employer is responsible for the delay in negotiations. We expect backpay to be made to 1 July when there is an eventual settlement,’ he said.

Brett says all the indications are from the six meetings held to date with the employer that an eventual offer will be considerably less than the 5% claim served by nurses. Ultimately, Brett says, the Treasury will have a significant say in what the offer is.

‘At the ALP Conference, Treasurer Michael Costa ran roughshod over his own party over the privatisation of electricity. He will have no qualms about doing it to us either.

‘We are making plans for when the offer is made. As soon as we get the offer members will have it by email and post. The next step will be to have it considered by members at branch meetings, probably in mid-June.

‘Realistically, it will take members’ resolve to achieve an acceptable offer from this Government,’ he said. ‘We will need commitment, discipline and precision if we are to get a fair outcome.’