Pay parity & protection

The Private Hospital Nurses’ Campaign has won pay parity and protection of existing award conditions for the majority of private hospital nurses. The Agreements with private hospital employers are a huge achievement by the NSWNA and members in the current uncertain industrial relations environment.

Healthscope delivers pay parity and protection

Determined private hospital members win outstanding agreement with Healthscope.

NSWNA members have voted 99% in favour to endorse an agreement with Healthscope that delivers nursing staff pay parity with their public sector colleagues.

The Agreement provides substantial pay rises of 14.75% (compounded), a process to resolve workload issues and protection of existing conditions – a huge achievement in the current uncertain industrial relations environment.

The pay rises and current Award conditions will be protected as a ‘Preserved State Agreement’ from the WorkChoices legislation, which came into effect on 27 March 2006.

In late March, the NSWNA put out an urgent call for members to vote and endorse the final Agreement, which was submitted for approval to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission on 21 March. Now approved, the agreement is a legally enforceable document.

‘The NSWNA was under extreme pressure to get the Agreement approved by the Commission before the legislation was introduced. It was a race against WorkChoices and we were forced to ask members to vote in haste,’ said NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes.
‘Fortunately, private hospital members now have the protection of the new Agreement. The alternative would have been the hostile world of WorkChoices and AWAs.’

The Agreement delivers nurses 14.75% compounded wage increases during 2005–2008:

  • 3.5% already paid from November 2005 or February 2006 (depending on your hospital)
  • 4% from first pay period on or after 1 September 2006
  • 4% from first pay period on or after 1 September 2007
  • 2.5% from first pay period on or after 30 June 2008
    (See the NSWNA website for the pay increases for all nurse classifications).

Healthscope nurses have also won provisions to address nursing workloads issues. The Agreement includes a workloads clause, which provides a process to discuss and resolve nursing workload issues.

The Agreement introduces an Enrolled Nurse Medication Endorsement Classification, awarding ENs endorsed to administer medication an extra 2% pay rise.

The protection and maintenance of existing Award conditions such as paid parental leave, union officials’ right of entry and recognition of NSWNA workplace representatives/delegates was a critical aim in these negotiations. They have been incorporated into the new Enterprise Agreement and Healthscope has provided a written commitment to the NSWNA that it will maintain all existing Award conditions for the life of the Enterprise Agreement, which expires on 1 September 2008.

‘In the current climate, this is an outstanding achievement. It’s an Agreement that delivers significant improvements to private hospital members’ pay and conditions. Despite the required rush in getting it endorsed, there were no guarantees further campaigning and negotiations would have resulted in any improved benefits,’ said Brett.

‘The NSWNA achieved the Agreement thanks to the perseverance of private hospital nurses. The NSWNA negotiators were able to push harder for improvements knowing members were sticking together for a better outcome. It also meant your employer knew you were serious about the issues,’ he said.

‘Respect, power and control over our lives’

Belinda Tobias, President of the newly-formed Mosman Private Hospital branch, said the new Agreement gives Healthscope members a sense of respect, power and control over their lives.

‘The big issue was pay parity and it looks like we’ve achieved this. It’s demeaning not being paid as much as public hospitals,’ she said.

‘The provision for a reasonable workload is also very good. At the moment it’s up to management to decide if our workloads are excessive. Doing it tough is ingrained in the old nursing culture and being overloaded is often seen as just part of the job.

‘But we are just so busy every shift we just don’t have time to think. We finish every shift absolutely exhausted and just collapse after work,’ said Belinda.

‘Nurses often feel bad about speaking out about poor conditions but we should have fair working conditions so we don’t get burnt out.’
Members at Mosman Private Hospital established a new NSWNA Branch in February so they could get organised and take action to improve their conditions.

‘We also felt concerned about the current industrial relations climate,’ said Belinda. ‘We feel more empowered as a branch. We have a sense that we can get organised and really do something about our working conditions, instead of just whingeing amongst ourselves.

‘Setting up a new branch has inspired members to take a real interest in the union. We understand now what goes on in negotiating an Agreement and how hard NSWNA officials have worked,’ she said.

Protection flows to other private hospitals

The NSWNA has also won a new Enterprise Agreement covering nurses working at more than 20 independently-owned private hospitals.

The Agreement provides substantial pay rises of 14.75% (compounded) that will match public hospital nurses’ pay rates over the life of the Agreement, and protection of existing conditions.

The pay increases are as follows:

  • 3.5% from first pay period on or after 1 March 2006
    (this will be backpaid)
  • 3.5% from first pay period on or after 1 September 2006
  • 3.5% from first pay period on or after 1 July 2007
  • 3.5% from first pay period on or after 1 July 2008.

The Agreement was achieved in a hostile industrial relations environment after weeks of intense negotiations between the NSWNA and the independent private hospitals represented by Leana Street Consulting.

Other achievements include 2% higher pay for ENs who take on the responsibility of medication endorsement and the introduction of
the Midwifery and Assistant in Midwifery classifications.

See the NSWNA website for more details on the content of the Agreement and a listing of the private hospitals where nurses will be covered.