Nurses say: Premier Baird – your money won’t buy our silence

A wages ‘offer’ you can’t refuse…

As members would be aware, last year the NSW Government attempted to silence our campaign for putting patient safety first by applying to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) to unilaterally pay 2.27% to Public Health System (PHS) nurses and midwives. We got their money, and continued our campaign unabated.

It appears that the Government has the same strategy in mind for this year: it has lodged an application in the IRC to increase PHS nurses’ and midwives’ wages and allowances by 2.27%.

Our claim was for 2.5% which, at the time, was the maximum amount payable under the Government’s unfair wages legislation, without requiring the ‘trading off’ of hard fought for conditions. Recently, the NSW Court of Appeal held that 2.27% per annum was the maximum amount payable under the Government’s unfair laws.

But where are the ratios?

Our claim clearly went beyond wages: building on our big wins in the 2011 Award campaign, the claim seeks to improve and extend nurse to patient ratios across NSW. Yet again the NSW government has chosen to ignore the needs of patients in this State. It can only be assumed that safe patient care is not their priority.

No choice – but to fight

As outlined in previous circulars, the State Government’s draconian wages laws remain in

force. Imposed in 2011, they effectively removed the IRC’s arbitration powers. Mike Baird introduced these laws when he was Minister for Industrial Relations and continues to impose them as Premier. Wages (and potentially conditions) are still subject to the whim of government.

Before the new laws, the Association could argue in the IRC that changes to nursing work and productivity should be rewarded with significant wage increases. ‘Good faith’ bargaining is dead for public sector workers in NSW (including nurses and midwives) whilst these laws remain in force. Accordingly, nurses in NSW have little choice but to accept the 2.27% increase. This Government has removed all other options.

If the Government hopes that we will ‘go away’ after getting the 2.27% increase, they will be sadly mistaken. Last year we put the Government on notice in the IRC that the acceptance of their wages ‘offer’ “will in no way hamper our members determination or capacity to continue their campaign for safe patient care through the extension of [nurse to patient] ratios”.

Our position is unchanged: in 2014, nurses and midwives remain committed to safe patient care and a well-resourced and equitable public health system and we will continue our campaigning around these issues. The 2.27% increase will not make these issues go away. Further information and details of our ongoing campaign in response will be sent to all relevant branches in coming weeks.

Download this PHS circular: Nurses Say: Premier Baird – Your Money Wont Buy Our Silence

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