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Ramsay pay leapfrogs public sector

Big breakthroughs on pay and allowances are an important feature of our proposed new agreement with Australia’s biggest private hospital owner.

Pay rates at Ramsay Health Care, Australia’s biggest private hospital operator, will move ahead of NSW public health rates for the first time in July and will likely stay in front until at least 2017.

This comes as a result of a proposed new agreement between Ramsay and the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association.

The three-year agreement includes pay rises of an average three per cent per annum and a 30 per cent increase in the on-call allowance.

Ramsay has withdrawn all the “trade‐offs” it sought during six months of negotiations with the NSWNMA.

“We have done very well in terms of pay and on-call allowances,” said Jane Cooper RN, a member of the NSWNMA’s negotiating team and delegate at Figtree Private Hospital in Wollongong.

Nina Di Cesare EN, union delegate at Lake Macquarie Private Hospital, agrees the pay and allowance increases are “a very big step forward.”

“We reached pay parity with some of the other private hospitals in the Newcastle area and we will even move ahead of the public system after our first pay increase in July,” she says.

“We have always lagged behind the public system so it’s a good feeling to know we are leaders in pay rates.”

Ramsay makes extensive use of on-call employees, especially in theatres and maternity, yet its on-call rates were lower than most of the industry.

After initially denying that on-call rates were an issue for Ramsay nurses, management eventually agreed to a 30 per cent increase and withdrew a proposal to cut pay for on-call periods of less than 12 hours.

It was one of the biggest wins of the campaign according to Amelia Gasparotto, NSWNMA delegate at St George Private Hospital in Kogarah.

“I have been a nurse for 28 years and this agreement is one of the best outcomes we’ve had,” she said. “It shows that by getting large numbers of members involved and being proactive you can achieve something. We now have a strong foothold to do even better at the next negotiations.”

The new agreement “will give us the capacity to attract more nurses to work at Ramsay” said Melissa Nicoletti RN, NSWNMA branch secretary and delegate at Tamara Private Hospital, Tamworth.

“It is a fantastic agreement. All the feedback from nurses at Tamara Private has been very positive. We’ve kept all our existing conditions and won a lot more.”

Melissa said she was also pleased to hear Ramsay’s HR manager speak positively about the agreement. She says it will make it easier for the company to recruit nurses and retain existing staff.

The proposed agreement comes after Ramsay reported a 21.3 per cent rise in half-year net profit to $191.4 million in February.

Chief executive Chris Rex said he could safely spend hundreds of millions each year expanding the company’s Australian hospitals, because demographic trends almost guarantee the extra beds and operating theatres will be filled.

The Ramsay agreement includes an improved workloads tool – the process for dealing with staffing issues.

It includes a timeframe for management to respond to staffing issues, the ability to raise workload issues as a group, not just as an individual, and regular discussions about workloads at a unit level to identify problems early.

Jane Cooper says now it is up to members to use the workloads tool to ensure that wards are adequately staffed.

“Members now have to learn how to use the tool. The union will need to put in a lot of work to educate members about this and other aspects of the new agreement.”

NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda says the agreed offer is likely to impact pay and conditions under other private hospital operators.

Campaign builds strength

As a result of the campaign to improve conditions at Ramsay, many nurses and midwives joined the Association and new NSWNMA branches were formed.

Existing NSWNMA members stressed their need to encourage non-member colleagues to join the Association to strengthen the campaign for better conditions.

Amelia Gasparotto says a number of nurses at St George Private joined the Association during the campaign.

“As a delegate you always get the same responses – what does the union do for me? I can’t afford it! The campaign provided the perfect opportunity to explain what the union does.

“The extra membership numbers gave us more bargaining power in the negotiations. It was definitely a positive to have more people come on board and see what the union was doing to benefit nurses.”

Jane Cooper said: “We need to work on creating a stronger union in the hospitals so we can make further progress at the negotiation table next time.

“The union is not the people in the Association office in Sydney, it is the people on the floor in hospitals.”


Proposed Ramsay agreement — the main gains

The proposed agreement won by NSWNMA members at Ramsay Health Care includes:

Pay

•    4% pay rise in 2015

•    3% pay rise in 2016

•    2.5% pay rise in 2017

•    on-call allowance to increase more than 30%

Staffing

•    timeframe for management to respond to staffing issues

•    ability to raise workload issues as a group

•    regular workload discussions at unit level

E–learning

•    Ramsay to provide time and computers to complete mandatory training at work, or pay members to complete it elsewhere.

•    Completion of mandatory education modules must be considered when determining staffing.

In-charge with patient load

•    The new workloads clause will be able to help fix workload issues for all nurses and midwives, including those in-charge, where members enforce it.

Other

•    increase to nine weeks paid parental leave

•    reintroduction of paid change time

•    a process to review part-time hours

 

The final drafting of the agreement is taking place as The Lamp goes to print.