Saturday, June 28, 2008


Red New Readers,

My letter to Brett Holmes re the acceptance of the pay and conditions deal and the CCH reporting of the deal,

Jenny Haines


You and the Officers of the NSW Nurses Association should be ashamed of yourselves. At
a time when the Nurses Association has considerable bargaining power due to the
difficulties the health system faces, you persuade branches to accept a deal that you
admitted on radio this morning was less than the rate of inflation, but the best nurses
could get from the current State Government. I cannot remember a time in recent history
in the Association when nurses have been asked to trade off so much for a wage
increase. It is true that the wage increase itself is better than the government
offered intially, but it is only a 2 year deal. What happens in the remaining 2 years
of the usual 4 year arrangement? Even if we are facing a resturctured health system in
2 years time, would it not have been better to put nurses in a more secure position for
the first 2 years of that restructuring, rather than facing negotiations in a new and
complex environment?

Nurses are now working in a tough and busy system. I am sure that most nurses would
feel that they are giving offsets on a daily basis when they put up with the working
conditions, the hours, the forced overtime (I hear from my students that is is rife),
the shift shortages, the unreasonable workloads (which the Reasonable Workload Process
does not seem to be addressing). So to impose on them at this time this set of offsets
is reprehensible. I know you say that 91 and 97% of branches voted for the package.
Frankly I don't believe those figures. They rank with the claims made by Mugabe that he
won the last election in Zimbabwe. If you have faith in the results, then place them on
the Association website, so all members can see which branches voted which way. I would
also be interested to see the number of nurses at each branch meeting.

On reasonable workloads, I note from the Memo to Officers that was circulating on the
email system that your officers promised to campaign on reasonable workloads in 12
months time if the branches and members accepted Option One. I would urge you to start
campaigning on reasonable workloads now. It seems to me that a number of workplaces no
longer have Reasonable Workloads Committees and many that do are dominated by
Administration representatives, so that the Association voice is not as effective as it
should be. There was great promise in the Reasonable Workloads process when it was
established and it is a shame to let the process fall into disrepute through lack of
effectiveness. If we can't make the Resonable Workloads process work then it is time to
start talking about ratios.

There will no doubt be great anger amongst nurses at the acceptance by the Association
leadership of this wages and conditions package and the rumblings will continue for
some time. I can only guess at the consternation among nurse administrators at the
proposed review, yet again of senior nurse managment positions. The removal of access
to GREAT is an offset that would make past leaders of the Association turn in their
graves. The commitment by the Association leadership to co-operate with workplace
reform is something that all members and branches need to monitor closely.

It has always seemed to me that the primary role of a union is to pursue with vigor its
members best interests and to utilise what ever campaign resources it can to achieve
that end. That responsibility extends to other unions and their members where they are
affected by the decisions made. While no one wants to see a non Labor Government in
NSW, there was plenty of bargaining room available to the NSW Nurses Association
leadership and you chose to take the path of least resistance. The members have not got
a good deal, and they have not got the best deal they could have got if they had
Officers who were dedicated to representing their best interests.

Jenny Haines
Member of the NSW Nurses Association since 1977.

NSW: Nurses forfeit entitlements for higher pay

27 June 2008 Content provided to you by AAP.

SYDNEY, June 27 AAP - NSW Nurses have grudgingly given up a host of entitlements in exchange for a 7.80 per cent pay increase over the next two years.More than 91 per cent of members voted yesterday to approve the pay offer of 3.9 per cent per year, starting in July.

But the deal also means they will get less pay on certain shifts and will have limits on how many scheduled days off they can accrue.Nurses Association of NSW general secretary Brett Holmes said nurses were better off in money terms but not happy about the lost conditions.

"The ones that have been the most controversial for our members, the ones that are causing the most angst, are the reduction in the additional days off," Mr Holmes told AAP.

Nurses normally receive one day off a month but the maximum number they can accrue under the scheme has been reduced from seven days to three under the new agreement.Mr Holmes said nurses often accrued the maximum "to try and balance their work and family responsibilities".

Nurses will also forfeit the extra pay they used to get when required to work the shifts of more senior staff."The high grade duty is (now) only paid after a full five days of undertaking that higher duty and our members are pretty upset about that," Mr Holmes said.

But the state government did agree to the union going ahead with two cases before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.In these cases, nurses are seeking penalty rates for night shifts increased from 15 per cent to 25 per cent and higher pay for more experienced, full-time nurses.

Mr Holmes said inflation rates of around four per cent meant nurses' pay would at least keep pace with current economic conditions."We believe that in the current financial environment, where people are facing higher costs, that we needed to at least ensure that our members were not going backwards in their take-home pay," he said."Overall, I think nurses are better off."

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